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  • Joan Rothchild Hardin

Hormone Disrupters in Our Cosmetics & Personal Hygiene Products

Parabens are frequently used as preservatives to prevent microbial growth and increase the shelf life of an estimated 13,200 cosmetic and skin care products. (Scheve, 2014) Most of us apply parabens to our skins and perhaps even consume them daily. They’re ingredients in:  (Scheve, 2014) (personal observation)

  • Cosmetics – such as moisturizers, lipsticks, lip balms, foundations, concealers, eye make ups, make up removers, self-tanners, hair dyes

  • Hygiene products – such as shampoos, conditioners, de-frizzers, volumizers, hair dyes, soaps, toothpastes, topical ointments, deodorants and anti-perspirants, shaving gels, sunscreens, anti-wrinkle creams, bandages and eye drops, personal lubricants, estrogen creams

  • Food products – such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, mustard, processed vegetables, frozen dairy products, soft drinks, baked goods and jellies

  • Pharmaceuticals – such as ointments and other products

  • Household and industrial products – such as textiles and glues






HOW CHEMICAL ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS ARE HARMFUL The 8 glands in our endocrine systems produce and release hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, development, tissue function, sleep, reproduction, sexual function and mood. Almost every cell in the body is affected by the endocrine system. A report issued in March 2013 jointly by the United Nations and the World Health Organization states that “Endocrine Disrupters (EDC’s) are a global threat to fertility and the environment.” And a recent report from the Environmental Working Group says: There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies–increasing production of certain hormones, decreasing production of others, imitating hormones, turning one hormone into another, interfering with hormone signaling, telling cells to die prematurely, competing with essential nutrients, binding to essential hormones, and accumulating in organs that produce hormones. (Anderson, 2014)

8 Glands in the Endocrine System

CHEMICAL NAMES OF PARABENS These are various names of the parabens we’re absorbing or ingesting from products – if they’re ingredients in your products, you’ll usually find them listed toward the bottom of the list:  (Lal, 2012)

  • Benzyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid

  • Butylparaben

  • Butyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid

  • Ethylparaben

  • Ethyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid

  • Isobutylparaben

  • Isopropylparaben

  • Methylparaben

  • Methyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid

  • Parahydroxybenzoate

  • Parahydroxybenzoic acid

  • Propylparaben

  • Propyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid

Japanese Honeysuckle Extract

Japanese Honeysuckle

Several authors have noted that a growing number of beauty product companies are trying to make their products safer and have substituted Japanese honeysuckle extract for chemical parabens. This has led to some controversy since the preservative made from Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica) is actually a form of paraben and behaves in a very similar way to synthetic parabens. Honeysuckle extract is marketed as Plantservative. (Marta, 2012) There’s hope: Some cosmetics companies are replacing parabens with grapefruit seed extract and Vitamin E; and essential oils like cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tea tree are being distilled and turned into natural preservatives. (Lal, 2012)

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that parabens have hormone-disrupting qualities that mimic estrogen, interfering with the body’s endocrine system. The EPA has linked methylparabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal and neurological disorders, as well as to various cancers – especially breast cancer. (Mercola, 2012) (Johnson, 2011) For more information on a parabens-breast cancer link, see the Environmental Working Group’s  EWG’s Skin Deep Database, and the articles by Mercola and Johnson.

There is evidence that the estrogen-mimicry effect of parabens decreases testosterone levels, sperm counts and daily production of sperm in rats. Testosterone was found to decrease in a dose-dependent manner related to paraben concentration. It is thought that parabens are also responsible for the increasingly early onset of puberty in children, damage to the DNA in sperm, and damage to mitochondrial function, causing male infertility. (Osman, 2012)

THE UNREGULATED COSMETICS INDUSTRY From Safe Cosmetics (Breast Cancer Action, 2014): Because testing is voluntary and controlled by the cosmetic manufacturers, many ingredients in cosmetic products are not tested for safety. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep states that 89 percent of ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution (FDA 2000, CIR 2002). The absence of governmental oversight for this $35 billion industry means that companies routinely market products with ingredients that are poorly studied, not studied at all, or worse, known to pose potentially serious health risks. It’s time to protect consumers…. Many cosmetic companies argue that the level of a harmful chemical in any one product is not enough to harm you…. However, science is finding the timing of exposure is critical, and that even a very small dose of some chemicals can have serious consequences in children and young women who are still developing. Moreover, we are rarely exposed to a chemical just one time. We may use the same product every day, several days a week, for months or years. In addition, we use dozens of personal care products daily, not just one. So while exposure from one product on one day may be small, we in fact use numerous products a day for extended periods of time. As a result, scientists are finding accumulations of chemicals such as parabens and phthalates in our bodies. The unregulated cosmetics industry has publicly assessed only 11% of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products. (The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2011) See the  Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website for ways to take action.

SKIN DEEP: A USEFUL COSMETIC SAFETY DATABASE