If you’re trying to conceive, already pregnant, want to balance your hormones, or would just like to find clean, safe makeup and beauty products, you may have noticed labels proclaiming things like “all-natural” and “organic” or maybe even “paraben and sulfate free.” But what’s the difference? What does all that mean, and does it really matter?
When it comes to your hormones, fertility, and overall health and well-being it DOES matter, A LOT.
In the past 100 years or so, human-made chemicals involved in mass-production of all kinds of products has been introduced to our environment, and we’ve only begun to understand the ramifications. What we do know is that many of the chemicals used in mass-production interfere with our body’s natural processes, disrupting our hormones, affecting fertility, and even causing cancer. Decades of studies indicate that serious health issues are on the rise and are due in some part to our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals.
These chemicals are found in just about EVERYTHING, including your water, your food, your home, your clothing, your car, your place of business, your lawn (and the lawn at the public park), and even the numerous personal care and beauty products that are most likely in your bathroom cabinet right now.
There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry. What’s worse is that the Food and Drug Administration (the agency that regulates cosmetics in the United States) does not have the authority to remove harmful ingredients from the products we put on our bodies every single day, day after day.
Although information like this makes it easy to panic, I promise you don’t need to run away to the woods and weave your underwear out of pine needles! You also don’t have to create a 35-step, 3-week process to DIY your own lipstick and mascara from scratch.
The good news is that as consumers become more aware of the harmful effects of toxic chemicals, more products become available that are safe to use. With a little bit of knowledge and label-reading, you can eliminate many harmful, toxic chemicals from your daily routine.
First of all, let’s talk about what these toxic chemicals in your beauty and personal care products actually are, and what they do.
Your endocrine system works like a complex communications network. The glands in your body release different hormones that act as messengers telling various parts of your body (including your immune and neurological systems as well as your sexual and reproductive processes) what to do and when to do it. When foreign chemicals that mimic your natural hormones enter your body, they confuse the network, sending the wrong signals to the glands in your body and blocking hormone receptors.
One of the most worrisome kinds of chemicals that end up in beauty products are xenoestrogens. Xeno means “foreign”—xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in your body, throwing your endocrine system totally off balance. They’re in a group of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, because they disrupt the natural processes of your body’s endocrine system, wreaking havoc on proper hormone balance. Xenoestrogens mimic natural estrogen, a hormone that, among other things, regulates reproductive process in women AND men. Synthetic estrogen is not biodegradable, so it stays stored in the body’s fat cells. Over time, estrogen builds up in the body, resulting in a condition called estrogen dominance. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include things like hair loss, depression, anxiety. mood swings, irritability, insomnia, PMS, breast tenderness, and endometriosis. Too much estrogen can also contribute to infertility and early miscarriage in women, and prostate and testicular cancer in men.
So how do you avoid xenoestrogens in your makeup and beauty products?
One of the first and easiest things you can do to avoid xenoestrogens in your makeup and personal care products is to start reading product ingredient labels. Here’s a quick and dirty list of items and ingredients you’ll want to avoid:
Parabens are synthetic chemical preservatives used in all kinds of makeup and beauty products, lotions in particular, to extend shelf-life. Not only do they mimic estrogen in the body, but they’ve also been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. Luckily these bad boys are easy to spot on labels—just avoid anything with ingredients ending in “paraben.” Here are some examples: Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Benzylparaben. It’s especially important to avoid parabens in your body lotion, because it covers such a large area of skin and results in the most exposure. An easy fix is to moisturize your skin with oils (like sweet almond or coconut) or oil-based lotions, which don’t require as much preservation—water-based lotions go bad quickly, which is why they need preservatives.
Phthalates (thal-lates), pr plasticizers, have been linked to a ton of health issues, including “asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.” The sneaky thing about phthalates is that they’re not always listed on labels. Phthalates are often an ingredient in synthetic fragrance, and since fragrances are considered proprietary, companies don’t have to disclose them on labels. They easiest way to avoid them is to choose products that have no synthetic fragrance (just look for “fragrance” on labels) listed in the ingredient label.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (or SLS) is a chemical derived from coconuts, and it’s what makes your shampoo, body wash, dish soap, etc. foamy and bubbly. There is some disagreement about the safety of SLS. While it’s a known irritant and can cause vomiting when ingested, there have (so far) been no studies on the long-term effects of its use. In this case, I believe that it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially since there are now so many products available that are SLS-free (one of my favorites, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, is a great option). While slightly less concerning than parabens and phthalates, SLS is still an ingredient you want to avoid when you can. It can be tricky to spot on labels—SLS and similar chemicals could be listed as sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex methyl, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), or Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS). You can also look for products that are labeled “Sulfate-free” or “SLS-free.”
Avoid Plastic Packaging:
Xenoestrogens (like phthalates and parabens) are found in plastics, and heat or long exposure can cause them to leach into a product even if it didn’t originally contain any xenoestrogens. Avoid buying any beauty products packaged in plastic, especially “recycle code 3” plastic. Instead, look for products packaged in glass, or bar shampoos and soaps packaged in paper or nothing at all. The Wild Minimalist, Basic, and True Botanicals all offer great options for plastic-free beauty products.
Beauty products, even “natural” ones, contain plant material that may have been exposed to xenoestrogens through the use of pesticides. Make sure that makeup and other products you use are organic, and if you’re planning to DIY your own beauty treatments, use organic ingredients.
If you’ve taken a look inside your shower and medicine cabinet and are now freaking out, it’s okay! You don’t have to throw everything out all at once and start over. Every step you take, even baby-steps, toward reducing xenoestrogens makes a difference. To make things a little simpler, I’ve also included a list of my very favorite, CLEAN makeup and beauty products:
Beautycounter is my one-stop-shop for clean body care, sunscreen, cosmetics and more. They won’t put anything in their products that hasn’t been tested, and they ban more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals through “The Never List™” — all while ensuring their products perform and that they’re as indulgent as any other luxe shampoo, lipstick, or oil in the market. Beautycounter is committed to a health and safety standard that goes well beyond what’s required by U.S. law and their products are amazing!
Living Libations is an amazing, super clean line of skin care, body care products, serums and elixirs. My absolute favorite is their Best Skin Ever face oil. You can find shampoo, conditioner, makeup, toothpaste, and more.
Vintners Daughter Active Botanical Serum is one of my all time favorite products! It’s a 100% active face oil, strategically formulated to have the multi-correctional activity and penetration of a super-powered serum. Made from the world’s most nutrient rich botanicals and essential oils, it is a skincare game changer that restores skin’s balance, texture and natural radiance.
If you have the time, energy, and interest, you can also create DIY personal care products that are non-toxic, inexpensive, and that nourish your skin and senses. Here are a few simple recipes to get you started:
Soothing Skin Moisturizer: mix 8 oz. (or one cup) of sweet almond oil with 12 drops of lavender, geranium, or chamomile essential oil. Smooth over skin after showering, or add a couple tablespoons to a warm bath (when adding oils to the bath, be careful not to slip!).
Exfoliating Sugar Scrub: mix equal parts organic, raw sugar with sweet almond oil. Add up to 12 drops of lavender, geranium, or chamomile essential oil if desired. Use to exfoliate rough patches of skin. Store in a glass jar. This is one of the best treatments for skin in dry weather, and makes a great gift!
A quick caveat about essential oils: it’s important to never ingest essential oils or use them internally. If you’re pregnant (or trying to conceive), it’s also important to avoid certain oils, specifically basil, camphor, hyssop, sage and wintergreen. All of the oils mentioned in my recipes above are safe for pregnant mamas, but always check with your midwife or doctor before using any essential oils.
While reducing xenoestrogens and other toxins in your environment is super important for your fertility AND overall health and well-being, it can also be really overwhelming to try and make major changes like this all on your own. That’s why I’m here! I created The Fertility Code 12-week online fertility program to make reducing toxins in your environment as simple as possible.
The 12 modules cover everything you need to know to optimize your hormones, support your gut, thyroid & adrenal health, understand exactly what supplements and nutrients you should be using, and SO MUCH MORE. Each module covers the Science so you understand the WHY, and the Solution laid out in easy-to-implement steps so you can execute the HOW.
You’ll have access to tons of done-for-you resources like cycle tracking tools, a daily fertility checklist, shopping lists, recipes, meal ideas, a daily supplement menu, and a ton more. You’re not alone! I’m here to help you optimize your fertility health, and prepare your body for conception and a graceful journey into a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
I want to hear from you—leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation!
What’s your go-to beauty routine?
What natural beauty products do you love?
Is there a product you love that you’ve had to stop using because of what it contained? What did you replace it with?
Spread some non-toxic lovin’! I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to clean up your environment and your beauty care products?? Schedule a consultation with me!