It is no secret that cosmetics are full of chemicals. It should also be no secret that chemicals from cosmetics that are in a women’s body have a direct connection to infertility. It is not just cosmetics either, it is nail polish, perfumes, antibacterial soaps, anti-ageing creams and more, that have high chemical contents and can cause severe negative effects on female fertility besides having several other side-effects.
The average woman uses 12 personal care products a day containing a staggering 168 different chemicals. Mounting research on the subject of infertility is pointing to the potential side-effects that chemicals in cosmetics and in beauty products is having on women’s hormones and reproductive systems.
Several endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been identified to affect abnormal ovarian function which can cause miscarriages and female infertility.
Also, consider the soap you use. Antibacterial soap can also kill your chances of conceiving, Antibacterial soaps contain the chemical triclosan which is linked to endocrine disruption that messes up with the hormones and the chemical interferes with the reproductive system.
Parabens are a type of preservative, present in soaps, shampoos and conditioners, used to prevent the growth of bacteria. But too much of it can have an impact on fertility. When hormones are out of balance, the chances of creating healthy eggs or healthy sperm is reduced.
Experts have said that ingredients in nail polish contain a cocktail of chemicals known to cause birth defects and harm fertility, especially a concern with formaldehyde, phthalates like DPT (dibutyl phthalate), toulene and a range of other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Phthalates are connected to both male and female infertility.
Nail polish removers contain toxic chemicals such as acetone, methyl methacrylate, toluene, and ethyl acetate.
Toluene, a commonly used solvent to get glossy finish on the nails, also affects the CNS and causes reproductive harm. Phthalates, most common chemical found in almost every cosmetic product, is found to disrupt the hormone levels, affect fertility and build up in breast milk when you do get pregnant.
Exposure to these cosmetic chemicals puts women at a higher risk of miscarriage and the baby at risk for physical and mental birth defects.
Leading naturopathic doctor Trevor Cates explains what to look out for on the labels of our body washes, lotions, shampoos, cosmetics and even toothpastes and how these ingredients are associated with a host of health problems.
In a separate alarming study by the Herb Research Foundation, it was revealed that the skin absorbs up to 60 percent of the chemicals in products that it comes into contact with directly into the bloodstream.
Dr Cate said: ‘What we put on our skin should be as clean as what we eat. But for most people, it’s not.
‘Even in tiny amounts, many of the chemicals commonly found in our cosmetics can have a tremendous health and hormonal impact, and we are only beginning to understand the consequences.’
Parabens, commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, can spur the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells, studies show
Parabens, commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, can spur the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells, studies show
Fragrance mixtures can be comprised of dozens, even hundreds, of individual chemicals, and those don’t have to be listed on the label.
Cate says avoid all fragrance unless it’s natural, such as from pure essential oils, as it can cause allergic reactions or hormone disruption.
2. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers (quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, bronopol, or imidazolidinyl urea)
Nearly one in five cosmetic products contains a substance that generates formaldehyde, which is linked to causing cancer.
This irritant can be found in nail products, hair dye, hair straighteners, false eyelash adhesives, and some shampoos.
3. Mineral oil and petroleum (also called petrolatum, petroleum jelly, and paraffin oil)
Mineral oil and petroleum are the basic ingredients in many cosmetic products today. Both mineral oil and petroleum have the same origins as fossils fuels.
Foundations, cleansers, and moisturisers often contain mineral oil. By locking moisture against the skin, mineral oil sits on the skin’s surface and can potentially block pores, increasing the risk of acne and blackheads.
A huge health concern with petroleum products is that they can contain an 1,4-dioxane. This impurity, found in 22 per cent of all petroleum-based cosmetics, has been found to cause cancer in animals.
4. Parabens (propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutyl-)
Used as preservatives, these can be found in a host of beauty items, including make-up, deodorants, moisturisers and shampoos.
Parabens have been found to spur the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells. And they appear to be able to do this even in tiny amounts.
They have a chemical structure that’s similar to estrogen, which means they can mimic the effects of that hormone in the body.
Another study found that some men who use products containing parabens have lower sperm counts and less testosterone than men who do not use products.
5. Ethanolamines (diethanolamine [DEA], monoethanolamine [MEA], and triethanolamine [TEA])
Impurities that can appear in these chemicals, called nitrosamines, are known to cause cancers in a variety of animal species.
Nitrosamines are not listed on product labels, so Cate recommends avoiding them all together.
There’s also evidence these are a human skin toxicant. Numerous studies have classified them as respiratory and organ toxicants.
These chemicals are found in a whole range of cosmetics including soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and dyes, lotions, shaving creams, pharmaceutical ointments, eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, make-up bases, foundations, fragrances and sunscreens.
6. Oxybenzone (benzophenone), octinoxate, and homosalate
Oxybenzone is an ingredient associated with photoallergic reaction
Found in many sunscreens, lip balms, and other products with SPF, these chemicals may mimic hormones, cause endometriosis and can pose a risk to reproductive systems.
Oxybenzone has been increasingly linked to early puberty in girls, low sperm count and male infertility, and an increase in hormone-related cancers in men and women.
Research also show oxybenzone can build up in fatty tissues and is linked to allergic reactions.
A study in 2008 revealed oxybenzone was found in the urine of 97 per cent of people tested, so we know it’s easily absorbed.
7. Hydroquinone (or tocopheryl acetate) and other skin lighteners
This can cause a skin disease called ochronosis with ‘disfiguring and irreversible’ blue-black lesions on exposed skin, the Food and Drugs Agency (FDA) warns.
In addition, hydroquinone has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.
These are found in certain cleansers, moisturisers, and other ‘skin-lightening’ products. Illegally imported skin lighteners can also contain mercury.
8. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
This is a waxy solid that can be found in a variety of cosmetics and personal care products, particularly in lipstick and eye shadow.
BHA has been classified as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’ by the US National Toxicology Program based on animal studies. And the European Union (EU) classifies it as an ‘endocrine disruptor’.
At higher doses, it can lower testosterone and the thyroid hormone thyroxin and adversely affect sperm quality and the sex organs of rats.
9. Triclosan and triclocarban
These are used as antimicrobial agents in personal care products, such as soaps.
The substances are an endocrine disruptor, meaning they can disturbs thyroid, testosterone, and estrogen regulation, which can create a host of issues including early puberty, poor sperm quality, infertility, obesity, and cancer.
Children exposed to these compounds at an early age also have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.
These chemicals are so widespread, they were found in the urine of 75 per cent of people tested.
Yet research shows that using antibacterial soaps are no more effective than using regular soap and water.
10. Coal tar ingredients (including aminophenol, diaminobenzene, and phenylenediamine)
Coal tar is a byproduct of coal processing and is capable of causing cancer in humans. Derivatives are used in dandruff shampoos.
These ingredients can be found in creams, ointments, soaps, and dandruff shampoos. The EU has banned the use of coal tar in cosmetics – be careful if you buy products when abroad.
11. Toluene is a toxic chemical used in in nail products and hair dyes.
This volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner is also used in nail products. It is neurotoxic and an irritant that can impair breathing and cause nausea.
Human epidemiological studies and animal studies have linked this ingredient with toxicity to the immune system and certain cancers.
12. Mica, silica (crystalline), talc (unless asbestos free), and nanoparticled titanium dioxide (TiO2)
These ingredients may be risky when used in powders or sprays because their tiny particle sizes are easily inhaled and can lodge inside our bodies and irritate our lungs.
Over time, this effect may lead to lung disease, says Dr Cate.
Note that these ingredients do not have the same potential harms when used in creams and lotions – in other words, when they aren’t inhaled.
13. Methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and benzisothiazolinone (also 2-methyl-4-isothiazoline-3-one, Neolone 950 preservative, MI, OriStar MIT, and Microcare MT, 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one and MCI)
These common preservatives were used in many liquid personal care products, including shampoo, conditioner, hair colour, body wash, lotion, sunscreen, mascara, shaving cream, baby lotion, baby shampoo, hairspray, makeup remover, liquid soaps and detergents.
The chemicals have been linked to lung toxicity, allergic reactions and possible neurotoxicity. The EU recently banned them – companies had until February this year to remove it from their products so you shouldn’t see this on the European market any more.
14. Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and aluminum
With accumulations in the body over time, heavy metals can impair the brain and nervous system, disrupt hormones, and potentially cause cancer.
Years ago mercury soaps were also used to lighten the skin, but again mercury itself is banned from use in cosmetic products in the EU – and has been since 1976. Cosmetic skin lightening products containing these ingredients are illegal.
But heavy metals may not be on the ingredient label as they can be present due to contamination of ingredients.
Look for calomel, lead acetate, mercurio, mercurio chloride, or thimerosal on labels.
15. Resorcinol (or 1,3-benzenediol, resorcin, 1,3-dihydroxybenzene, m-hydroxybenze, m-dihydroxyphenol)
Resorcinol is most common in hair dyes and is also used in shampoos and acne treatments
Used in tire production and a common ingredient in hair colour, bleaching, and certain acne and eczema peels and treatments.
It is a known skin irritant and allergen.
Some research also suggests it’s toxic to the immune system, and animal studies have linked exposure to this ingredient with thyroid disruption.
16. Carbon black (or D & C Black No. 2, channel black, acetylene black, furnace black, lamp black, and thermal black)
Carbon black is the product of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing materials.
It is used as a pigment in certain makeup and nail polish, it has been linked to cancer and toxicity for certain organs, including the skin, according to Dr Cate.
17. P-phenylenediamine (or 4-aminoaniline; 1,4-benzenediamine; p-diaminobenzene; 1,4-diaminobenzene; 1,4-phenylene diamine)
These are plastics used in hair dyes. Research suggests they can cause skin reactions, organ system toxicity, and possibly cancer.
It is can also alter the genetic material of cells, according to Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
18. Teflon (and polytetrafluoroethylene [PTFE], polyperfluoromethylisopropyl ether, DEA-C8-18 perfluoroalkylethyl phosphate)
The same substance that commonly coats nonstick cookware, it’s sometimes used in makeup.
Teflon may be contaminated with PFOAs, which have been associated with cancer and hormone disruption.
Stay away from these ingredients in cookware as well as cosmetics.
19. Acrylamide (also polyacrylamide; polyacrylate, polyquaternium, acrylate)
Used in certain creams, lotions, makeup, sunscreen, and hair care products as a stabilising and binding agent.
Acrylamide can cause cancer in humans and has been shown to disrupt reproduction in animal studies, says Dr Cate.
20. Phenoxyethanol (also Euxyl K® 400 and PhE)
Exposure to phenoxyethanol – which can be found in toothpaste – has been linked to eczema and even severe, life-threatening allergic reaction
This chemical preservative is used in a variety of personal care products, such as perfume, makeups, hand sanitisers, deodorants, toothpaste, baby wipes, sunscreens, and lotions.
Dr Cate says it has been linked to skin irritation and eczema and can even affect central nervous system function. It has been shown to cause bladder damage in animal studies.