A new study from researchers at UC Berkeley, Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, and a team of (how cool is this?) youth researchers from CHAMACOS Youth Council, “a project to involve young people in public health and the environment,” says you might want to take a break from some of your favorite beauty products. Your body will thank you.
Before we jump right in, here are a few terms you should be familiar with.
- Self-Care Products – We’re talking about any product you use on your body. These include everything from soap and makeup, to hair products, lotions, sunscreens, shampoos, and hair dyes.
- Hormones – “Chemical messengers” that travel through the blood and regulate physical processes including growth, metabolism (how your body gets and uses energy), mood, periods, and sexual reproduction.
- Endocrine System – The group of glands that produce hormones.
- Endocrine Disrupters – Chemicals, often found in everyday products, that can harm the endocrine system and have negative effects on bodily function and development.
- Chemicals in Beauty Products – There aren’t a lot of restrictions when it comes to what companies can put in your beauty products. Many popular products including lipsticks, shampoos, and soaps contain chemicals like parabens and phthalates that can be damaging to the endocrine system.
- Chemical-Free Beauty Products – Certain companies, like The Honest Company, stay away from using chemicals that are suspected to have harmful effects on the human body. If you are looking for chemical-free products, common labels include “Paraben Free” or “Free of sulfate, parabens, and phosphates.”
Companies making personal-care products have few limitations when it comes to what they can put into their products. In studies conducted on animals, some of these ingredients and chemicals these companies use have been shown to have harmful effects on the endocrine system. According to Kim Harley, lead study author and director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health, “Because women are the primary consumers of many personal care products, they may be disproportionately exposed to these chemicals.” “Teen girls,” she continued, “may be at particular risk since it’s a time of rapid reproductive development, and research has suggested that they use more personal care products per day than the average adult woman.”
100 Latina teenagers participated in the study, in which they were given lower-chemical products to use for three days. After the three days, their urine was tested and results showed drops in most chemicals.
Maritza Cárdenas, study co-author and a UC Berkeley undergraduate majoring in molecular and cell biology, said “One of the goals of our study was to create awareness among the participants of the chemicals found in everyday products, to help make people more conscious about what they’re using.” “Seeing the drop in chemical levels after just three days,” she said, “shows that simple actions can be taken, such as choosing products with fewer chemicals, and make a difference.”
While it may be unrealistic to buy all chemical-free products, either because of cost or because you’re not quite ready drop some of your favorites, the study suggests the benefits of limiting chemical-rich products when you can.