Hormones aren't just here to make us crazy — they play an important role in making sure our body functions properly, especially when it comes to reproduction. Unfortunately, your favourite lipstick or perfume might just get in the way of that. Many personal care products contain ingredients known as "endocrine disruptors." These troublemakers can wreak havoc on the endocrine system that regulates our hormones.
"These endocrine disrupting chemicals can affect fertility or have long term impacts on the baby."
Research suggests that women of childbearing age (who are or plan to get pregnant) should take the most care to avoid exposure to endocrine disruptors. Along with newborns and children, the adverse effects are most serious for this population. So what's at risk?
Well first of all, you could be pregnant without knowing it, and these chemicals can interfere with normal hormone functions that are crucial to a healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding.
But they may also cause reproductive problems before you get pregnant. Studies have linked endocrine disruptors to endometriosis, disorders of the uterus, and disorders of the ovaries, such as premature ovarian failure (POF) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
"Some chemicals can affect our hormones at even low levels," Nneka Leiba, director for Healthy Living Science at the Environmental Working Group, told me. "These endocrine disrupting chemicals can affect fertility or have long term impacts on the baby."
Much of the research concedes that more needs to be done to determine the true risk of exposure to such chemicals in our personal care products. But considering the FDA has little proactive oversight of cosmetic ingredients, you may want to play it safe and avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals when it comes time to think about starting a family.
Groups like EWG or the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics maintain lists of potentially problematic ingredients. EWG puts out a Dirty Dozen endocrine disruptor list (which includes chemicals found in cleaning supplies or food), while the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a searchable database of chemicals of concern.
Many of these chemicals — which specifically impact reproductive functions — are found in your favourite cosmetic and personal care products. If you're trying to conceive, we've identified endocrine disruptors that may be hiding in your makeup bag or vanity cabinet. You'll want to check the ingredient labels and then swap out any offenders with these safer options. It's the perfect excuse to try out some new makeup!