Looking Good: Could Fragrance and Other Cosmetic Ingredients affect Your Fertility?
In this post, I’ll be giving you tips on how to shop for the healthiest beauty products.
Let’s face it, we all like to smell good.
Women (and men) around the world like things with fragrance, be it hand lotion, shaving cream, deodorant, lipstick or shampoo. We even put air fresheners in our cars and offices. The problem: fragrance means added chemicals—often hormone-disrupting phthalates like diethyl phthalate (DEP). Phthalates may affect male reproductive system development and some are suspected to be carcinogenic. More info here. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found DEP in 70% of fragrance products tested in 2010. According to the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products, 1-3% of the European population is allergic to fragrance. These fragrance allergens can cause and trigger asthma attacks. In Europe, potential fragrance allergens must be listed on the label; in the US, fragrance ingredients are considered a “trade secret” and labeling is not required.
Tips for Kicking the Fragrance Habit
- Take a quick inventory of fragrances in your home. You’ll probably find at least a hundred. Decide which ones you can do without.
- Do your best to avoid air fresheners.
- If you must use some synthetically fragranced products, choose one or two and limit/avoid the rest.
- Shop smart. Avoid products with:
- DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate)
- DBP (dibutyl phthalate)
- BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
- Watch for DEHP, CBP and BBP, which are banned for use in cosmetics in Europe due to their classification as reproductive toxicants.
- Choose products with no added fragrance, fragrance-free products or those with no synthetic fragrance added. Beware of label claims, though. Recently I found a deodorant labeled “unscented”, but was disappointed to find “fragrance” on the ingredient label! Use the advanced search of the Skin Deep Database to find products. Pay special attention to those on the label.
To feed your love of fragrance, try these healthier alternatives:
- Saturate a cotton ball with vanilla, almond extract or peppermint extract and leave it in an open dish.
- Simmer cinnamon and cloves with orange slices in a pan with water. Find more natural scent ideas here.
- Burn naturally scented soy or beeswax candles that don’t contain a lead wick.
- Essential oils are very popular–and though natural–may not all be safe for pregnancy. Here are a few that have been deemed safe (when diluted properly) by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy:
- Sweet Orange
Avoiding Lead in Lipstick
Lead in lipstick? Yes, unfortunately. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis found lead in 400 lip products tested. (Natural pigments in lipstick contain minerals, including lead.) While manufacturers claim the amount of lead you might absorb from lipstick is nothing to worry about, and the FDA agrees, we think lead in lipstick is, well—ugly! See this FDA site for more information. (Some of the most expensive and cheapest brands were on the list of lipsticks with the least amount of lead!)
But–lead in lipstick may be the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to chemicals in cosmetics. Why? Because the cosmetic industry regulates itself, at least in the United States. The FDA has no authority to require companies to test products for safety. In addition, the U.S. doesn’t review the vast majority of products or ingredients before they go to market. Surprisingly, many products in the U.S. contain ingredients which have been banned in Japan, Canada or the European Union. You can absorb ingredients in cosmetics and hair care products through the skin, so their safety is of upmost importance, especially while you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
How To Choose Safer Cosmetics and Beauty Products
In general, get in the habit of reading ingredient labels on cosmetic and body care products just as you would a food label.
According to Good Housekeeping, these are 6 ingredients to avoid:
- Petrochemicals including petroleum jelly, isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol, methyl alcohol or methanol, butyl alcohol or butanol, ethyl alcohol or ethanol
- Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfates and other sulfate-based detergents
- Propylene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG), and ingredients formulated with PEGs and PGs
- Formaldehyde & paraben preservatives such as butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben
- Synthetic dyes including anything with F&DC preceding it, usually followed by a color and a number, as well as color ingredients caramel, lead acetate and manganese violet
- Artificial fragrances like those in most beauty products, including your favorite cologne
Use the Think Dirty app, which lets you scan the barcode of products and then analyzes the ingredients for you!
- The Environmental Working Group maintains the Skin Deep Database, which helps consumers check the safety of cosmetic and personal care products. Also see Safe Cosmetics for more information.
- In Australia, a non-government organization, Safe Cosmetics Australia, has a certification program for toxic-free personal care and household products. Find Health Cananda’s “Hotlist” of chemicals, which are restricted or prohibited from use in cosmetics.
- Post about Toxic Beauty from Goop–a must read!
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
- More about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
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