Switching cosmetics may lower your chemical exposure
Today, many people have concerns about harmful chemicals in their environment. Researchers have examined everything from the pesticides used in fruit and vegetable production to the chemicals found in kids’ toys.
Cosmetic products are no stranger to this kind of scrutiny, and now a new study finds that stopping the use of some cosmetics and other personal care products on even a short-term basis can lower the levels of potentially harmful chemicals in the body.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas examined endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonly found in personal care products and whether limiting exposure can help.
“The research on chemicals like phthalates and parabens isn’t fully conclusive yet, but the body of research indicating their potential harm is growing,” said Dr. David Dreyfuss, a board-certified plastic surgeon on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “These chemicals are very common in modern beauty products, so it is encouraging to see that we could choose to make simple changes in our buying habits and significantly reduce our exposure in a short period of time.”
Researchers asked 100 teenage girls to use beauty and personal care products containing fewer of the hormone-disrupting chemicals than their usual brands. After a three-day trial, the researchers compared before and after urine-sample results and found significant decreases in most of the targeted ingredients. In the end, the concentration of phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone in participants’ bodies decreased between 27 and 45 percent.
The study stands out for another reason: the researchers designed and conducted the study with the help of 12 high school students from the CHAMACOS Youth Council. The young scientists were involved from beginning to end and later presented the results to legislators in Sacramento. In a press release, researcher Kimberly Parra said the students’ ownership of the project inspired them to also spread the news throughout their own social circles and communities.
“Teenagers tend to be heavily influenced by their peers and social circles, so involving a group of students in this study was an interesting – and probably wise – choice by the researchers,” says Dr. Dreyfuss. “Teenage girls, in particular, are heavy users of personal care products, which may put them at a higher risk of exposure than older women or young men. While we can’t say for sure that these ingredients cause great harm, some presented with this information may choose to be more conscientious consumers.”