Chemicals in cosmetics and your personal care products are making you FAT. Many don’t realize that perfumes, phthalates and other chemicals present in almost all beauty products interfere with hormone function and can result in weight gain.
I’ve always been obsessed with personal care products like shampoos and lotions. I don’t know why but ever since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with skin and its care. I thought I needed to slather on lotions and potions to have healthy, youthful looking skin. I gave myself nightly facials and slathered my entire body with lotion every day. I went to great lengths in my beauty regimen. Little did I know I was exposing myself to toxins for decades that bioaccumulated in my body and are now making me fat.
Like most people, I never questioned the safety of the ingredients in my eye cream, neck cream, face cream, toner, serums, sunscreen, face wash, hair mousse, hair spray, makeup, shave gel, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and on and on. I put so much crap on and in my body it is mind-boggling. Blindly, I figured the government protected consumers from toxic ingredients and automatically assumed that manufacturers legally and ethically could not put anything in these products that are harmful. You and I were wrong.
Let me preface our toxin talk by mentioning that putting chemicals on your skin is far, far worse than ingesting them in food. When you eat a toxin-laden bite of food, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help break it down. You then enjoy the benefit of the liver and other detox organs flushing it out of your body. That is if they’re not overloaded and overworked.
When you put the chemicals in most bathroom toiletries on your skin, they’re absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind. The toxic cocktail in your products is largely going directly to your internal organs and messing with your hormones, namely interfering with estrogen or creating estrogen dominance. So you have to be really careful about what you’re putting on your skin. Skin penetration rates for chemicals are remarkably high. The dose via the skin can be up to ten times the dose than if you ingested it. This is why transdermal vitamins and medications work more efficiently and more is absorbed than oral versions.
I literally have tried almost every product on the market and read every label. Honestly, I always intuitively felt those long chemicals names on the labels could not be good for me. But only in the last decade did I begin studying what all those weird chemical names were on the labels.
The Five Biggies
There are 25,000 chemicals used in cosmetics, but five of the most common ones also happen to cause problems with your weight. Of these thousands of chemicals, only a tiny fraction of them have ever been tested for safety. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, nearly 900 of the chemicals used in personal care products are known to be toxic. It’s impossible to list them all, but some of the most common culprits to avoid include:
- Chemical sunscreens
The main fluff maximizer you want to avoid on package labels are phthalates, which are actually a class of chemicals. Phthalates are ingredients used to hold fragrance and color in a product. According to a review of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and obesity development in humans, phthalates are generally associated with an increase in body size. (5)
Phthalates are synthetic estrogens, capable of mimicking natural estrogen in the body. This can do a number of things like make you fat by interfering with normal thyroid function and causing insulin resistance, absolutely contributing to our obesity epidemic. They also cause estrogen dominance related health issues like cancer. Phthalates also have anti-androgenic effects, meaning they counter “male” sex hormones and affect fetal development, particularly of male sexual function. They have also been linked to ADHD, breast cancer, decreased motor and mental development in children. They have also been shown to impair endogenous cellular defense mechanisms. In other words, they hamper our cells’ ability to detoxify. This is a big problem in our already toxic world.
Phthalates are the most common toxin in the body, at levels 1000 times the levels of other toxins. The reason is that they’re ubiquitous in our environment. They are EVERYWHERE. Good news is you can remove phthalates from your body by using an infrared sauna. The only way to get them out is to sweat them out. Learn more about Infrared Saunas.
Phthalates are found in thousands of household products from laundry detergent to dish soap, to candles and air fresheners to perfume, body lotion, and shampoos – dryer sheets, aftershave, hair spray… if it’s fragranced, it’s got phthalates in it. Even if the product is unscented, it likely still has fragrance in it simply to cover up the nasty smell of the other chemicals in the product. They are also used in nail polish to keep the polish from becoming brittle and chipping off. Even polishes labeled phthalate-free are lying – many have been tested and found to still have phthalates. Being in so many products millions of people are using everyday, it’s no wonder they are the most common toxin found in our bodies. They are in everything because almost all personal care products contain fragrances.
Here’s the problem with Fragrances. Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets. This means companies don’t have to disclose the chemicals contained in a particular fragrance. So, the word fragrance can contain a hundred or more nasty chemicals that could be harmful. The reason your clothes smell like your detergent or dryer sheets, or the reason you can smell your shampoo long after you’ve washed your hair is because phthalates have fixed that scent to the fabric, or your hair and skin. Needless to say, I recoil when some lady is near me just drenched in perfume. So many people have no idea how toxic this stuff is.
If a cosmetic is scented it contains phthalates. That goes for soaps, lotions, deodorants, and dryer sheets and laundry detergent. But if you gotta have your stinky smells, then buy products with essential oils.
The best thing you can do to avoid phthalates is to avoid products with fragrance in them. You will see them on the ingredient label mainly as the word fragrance. Parfum and phthalate signal the culprit as well.
Parabens are preservatives and butt chunkers. These are why the products last for years on the shelf. Think about it. L’oreal makes all kinds of products, many of which are sold all over the world. They have to put preservatives so that it lasts months in storage, shipping and at the retailer before its sold. And then you want it to last for years on your shelf or in your shower. This is the problem. Consumers have unrealistic expectations about how long they want their products to last. This is why manufacturers put preservatives in the products. You would probably be mad if you paid $100 for a face cream and it went bad in a year. You can avoid parabens by buying products with no preservatives or natural preservatives like grapeseed oil and vitamin e.
The health concerns with parabens is they are estrogenic, contributing to our already estrogenic environment. The mimic estrogens in our bodies, the same way the phthalates do. Excess estrogen promotes obesity, cancer, estrognization of males, especially in utero, deformed or poorly formed male genitalia, infertility, female uterine issues like endometriosis and PCOS. And just think these ingredients, phthalates and parabens are found in the same products! Our environment has become so estrogenic because of these two ingredients – and also due to pesticides, but that’s a whole nother ball of wax. You have to do whatever you can to reduce your exposure to these estrogenic substances.
Simply avoid mainstream commercial products, all of which contain Parabens like Shampoos, conditioners, makeup, toothpaste, lubricant, shaving gel, moisturizers, sunscreens. These are easy to spot because they are clearly labeled. These will show on ingredients label as propyl, isopropyl, methyl, butyl, and isobutyl.
This chin multiplier is the next problematic ingredient. It is problematic because it is even found in organic products. It is used to make harsh ingredient more mild – like detergents. The health issues associated with 1,4-Dioxane is that it is known to cause cancer. It is also suspected of being a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA. It is also a leading groundwater contaminant. A new study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) found that many leading “natural” and “organic” brand shampoos, body washes, and lotions contain1,4-Dioxane. Some of the leading organic and natural brands found to contain 1,4-Dioxane include:
- JASON Pure Natural & Organics
- Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
- Kiss My Face
- Nature’s Gate Organics
To avoid 1,4-dioxane avoid products with ingredient names including: “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” as in Sodium laureth sulfate, “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol,”
BHA and BHT
These pant busters are synthetic antioxidants used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Commonly, they are used to preserve food as well. They are suspected endocrine disruptors guaranteed to make you fat. Let’s add them to the laundry list of ingredients in your products that are making you gain 10 pounds a year easy. This ingredient is also carcinogenic, yet it’s used freely in many personal care products.
The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has also listed BHA as a Category 1 priority substance, based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function. (2) The European Union prohibits the use of BHA as fragrance ingredient in cosmetics. The State of California requires warning labels on products containing BHA, notifying consumers that this ingredient may cause cancer.
People have been brainwashed into thinking that sunscreens are protecting their health. Many sunscreens use UV-filters like benzophenone and oxybenzone for their UV-blocking properties, but they also possess a hidden feature: endocrine disruption. Certain forms of benzophenone, for example, inhibit the action of thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme necessary for the production of thyroid hormone. (3) Your thyroid sets your metabolism. When it’s interrupted, so is your dress size. Another study showed that application of sunscreen containing benzophenone-2 for five days lowered T4 and T3 thyroid hormones in rats. (4) Later, researchers examined the estrogenic effects of another UV-filter used in sunscreen – octyl-methoxycinnamate – and found that typical amounts were enough to disrupt hormonal function and exert other, non-endocrine health effects when applied to rat skin. That might not be a problem if UV-filters in sunscreen weren’t designed to be absorbed into the skin, and therefore the body, nor if every expert weren’t telling us to slather a quarter cup full all over our bodies at the first hint of sunlight.
Mineral sunscreens are the healthier alternative. In the past, mineral sunscreens physically blocked the sun, but you looked like a warrior in face paint. Today, nanoparticle zinc oxide sunscreens avoid the pasty white look. They blend in quite nicely. There is no reason to use chemical sunscreens when there are safer alternatives.
The best part of all this? It’s not even effective against the development of melanoma! In fact, one study found a positive association between sunscreen usage and melanoma incidence. I spent years reading about skin in the hopes of becoming a dermatologist one day. I’m telling you, I’m IN TO SKIN. I just don’t buy it anymore that sunscreen protects you from skin cancer. It’s all about sensible sun exposure and not getting burned. I try to get out in the sun a few minutes every day without sunscreen. And I used to be a freak about it. I used to wear gloves and an umbrella to avoid the sun!! Needless to say, I have worn sunscreen on my face every day beginning in high school.
The Final Word
I’ve taken excellent care of my skin – or so I thought. I have great looking skin, but it is very difficult for me to lose weight because all these chemicals have bioaccumulated in a my body. My thyroid finally succumbed to this cesspool of toxins that have overwhelmed my hormones. This is a common scenario in anyone who is overweight. This is why people begin having weight and health problems after age 30. After a few decades of using these products every single day, these toxins to take their toll.
What brands do I recommend avoiding? Almost all of them. ALL commercial, popular brands of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shaving cream, body wash, hand soaps and toothpaste contain toxic ingredients. You must minimize your exposure to them if you plan to be fit, trim and disease-free. Contraband brands include Dove, Finesse, Pantene, L’oreal – all they crap you showered with this morning. You have to go natural and organic.
Get the brands that I recommend in my article Wendy’s Favorite Beauty Products. I review a nice assortment of natural products.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. Go primal. It’s fairly common for people to switch over to a Primal lifestyle and find they just don’t feel the need for all the body care products they used to wear. Some even ditch shampoo, deodorant, and soap altogether. Let’s not go too overboard! We don’t need a bunch of stinky people trying to transform themselves into modern day smelly cavemen. But don’t settle for modern day toxicity without a fight – especially from your face lotion.
Click here for References+
- Suzuki, David. Dirty Dozen Cosmetics Chemicals to Avoid. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/
- Study on Enhancing the Endocrine Disrupter Priority List with a Focus on Low Production Volume Chemicals, Revised Report to DG Environment. Hersholm, Denmark: DHI Water and Environment, 2007. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/endocrine/documents/final_report_2007.pdf.
- Schmutzler C, et al. The ultraviolet filter benzophenone 2 interferes with the thyroid hormone axis in rats and is a potent in vitro inhibitor of human recombinant thyroid peroxidase. Endocrinology. 2007 Jun;148(6):2835-44. Epub 2007 Mar 22.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17379648
- Jarry H, Christoffel J, Rimoldi G, Koch L, Wuttke W. Multi-organic endocrine disrupting activity of the UV screen benzophenone 2 (BP2) in ovariectomized adult rats after 5 days treatment. Toxicology. 2004 Dec 1;205(1-2):87-93. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15458793
- Tang-Péronard JL, Andersen HR, Jensen TK, Heitmann BL. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and obesity development in humans: a review. Obes Rev. 2011 Aug;12(8):622-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00871.x. Epub 2011 Apr 4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21457182