Toxins and Personal Care Products: What to avoid and what you need when trying to conceive!
Toxins are a hot topic in the world of wellness, and one that can be scary and overwhelming. It seems everything you use and encounter is somehow toxic, and when you’re trying to conceive (TTC) the last thing you want is a toxic environment.
There are a number of chemicals that directly affect the body’s endocrine system, creating negative effects on the reproductive process. These chemicals – or, toxins – are known as endocrine disruptors and they cause havoc on a woman’s fertility.
The Environmental Working Group has a great post on the 12 worst hormone-disrupting chemicals, dubbed the Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors. (click here for the full post) Here are they are:
- Fire retardants
- Perflourinated chemicals (PFCs)
- Organophosphate pesticides
- Glycol Ethers
Once we started fertility treatments, I started looking at the things in my life I had control over, the things I could change to make my lifestyle more natural and less toxic. I won’t lie, I felt the same way you likely do; overwhelmed with all the potential toxins in my everyday life. So, I took a step back and started with one thing at a time.
One of the first areas I started was cosmetics and other personal care products. Our skin is the biggest organ, and we put makeup and lotion on it everyday. In fact, “In a..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.” (source)
Personal care products can be a toxin minefield, and a great place to get started. This post covers endocrine disrupting ingredients to avoid in your personal care products and non-toxic options.
Parabens are used in cosmetics as a preservative to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. The most common types used in cosmetics are: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparabe (source). Their chemical structure closely resembles that of estrogen, meaning they can mimic the same effect in the body. Parabens have been shown – even in small amounts – to encourage the growth of certain kinds of breast cancer cells.
Found in: Make-up, deoderants, moisturizers, shampoos, body and face washes.
The term “fragrance” was created to protect a company’s “secret formula” so they are not required to list the specific ingredients. Great, right? When you see fragrance listed, you have no idea how many dozens or even hundreds of chemicals make up the concoction you’re putting on your skin. Yikes! Unless the fragrance is natural – like those from essential oils – it’s best to avoid. They can cause allergic reactions and hormone disruptions.
Found in: Body washes, moisturizers, colognes and perfumes, shampoos and conditioners.
This chemical is used as an antimicrobial property and is a known endocrine disruptor, especially effecting the thyroid and reproductive hormones.
Found in: Antibacterial soap, deodorant, and toothpaste.
Toluene is derived from coal tar sources and could be listed as: benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, and methylbenzene. It has been linked to immune system toxicity and is capable of causing cancer in humans, as well as effects on the reproductive system (source). It’s best to avoid in pregnancy as it may cause developmental issues in the fetus.
Found in: Nail polish, nail and hair color treatments.
This group of chemicals is used to increase the flexibility of plastics. While the effects are still being studied, “the National Toxicology Program concluded that high levels of one phthalate, di-n-butyl phthalate, may adversely affect human reproduction or development.” (source) Other studies have shown that certain phthalates can kickstart “death-inducing signals” to testicular cells, making them die early, directly affecting sperm count and mobility (source).
Found in: Nail polish, perfumes, lotions, and hairspray.
What to do now:
These are scary facts, and when I started learning all of the ways I was putting toxins into my skin I couldn’t help but think of the possible damage I had done. First, I focused on what I could do now, instead of ruminating over what was already done. The truth is, you’ve been operating with the knowledge you had and, now that you have more information, you can act on that.
An app that helps me make more informed decisions without spending hours reading through ingredients, is Think Dirty. You can scan or enter the name of any product (they have over 860 thousand products registered) and up pops a number 0-10 with 0 being the least toxic/most natural and 10 being the most.
They recommend using products registering a 0-3, being weary of products 4-7, and ditching anything 8+. Personally, I aim for <4-5 depending on how often I use said product.
Another great source is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database where you can search thousands of products to see how the EWG rates them. For a list of recommended items jump over to their EWG Verified page and start shopping!
Another tip is not to freak out and overhaul your cabinets all at once. Instead, try this:
- Start with identifying your most used products, those items you use everyday.
- Check them against the two sources listed above or go through the ingredients yourself.
- Decide which you would like to continue using, and those you want to ditch.
- Next, either throw them out, or do like I did and take the more economical route by using the up and replacing them as they run out.
- Now, move on to lesser used items and go from there.
The great thing is you don’t have to do this every time you shop. Once you identify a few brands and items you trust, you can buy them without checking apps or even thinking about it.
Personal tip: I use dōTERRA essential oils and have completely stopped using perfume, opting for natural oils instead. Check out this post on creating your own scent with essential oils, and this page to get started with essential oils!