I worked more than 20 years on the effect of estrogen (the lovely female sex hormone) and the impact of hormone / endocrine disrupting chemicals on the immune system. Here’s why I focused and worked on this subject and published peer-reviewed papers for all these years.
What is a hormone or endocrine disrupting chemical (HDC or EDC)? What does it do to our body, our skin?
Endocrine disruptors or Hormone disruptors are chemicals that can mimic the hormones in our body, especially the female sex hormone estrogen (1). These chemicals are known to interfere with development and reproduction, and they may cause serious neurological and immune system effects. The hormone disruptors can either induce more signals or block the natural hormonal signals in your body and interfere with the normal body processes. As you imagine, alteration of the delicate balance of your body can make you quite uncomfortable.
Are we exposed to Hormone Disruptors in our daily life?
Unfortunately, we are all exposed to endocrine/hormone disruptors everyday on multiple levels from a variety of products. For instance, you can find bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic food containers, and in the metal coating of canned foods. Australia, Canada, USA, Turkey, some European and Asian counties banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. France and Sweden banned BPA from the tins for food for children under three years old.
Another chemical with an estrogenic character? Parabens! Parabens are used as a preservative in cosmetics and skin care products. Their chemical structure is quite similar to estrogen and can bind to the estrogen receptor. When it’s bound to the estrogen receptor, it can act like estrogen and induce several biological responses in the body. I wrote a very detailed scientific review and you can find it here (2).
Other hormone disrupting chemicals are dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides (endosulfan, synthetic pyrethroids and chlorpyrifos), and phthalates, UV filters (octyl methoxycinnamate, benzophenone 3), triclosan, resorcinol, perfluoroalkyl acids (PFOA). I will go into detail on these chemicals in another post.
What are the sources for these nasty chemicals? Are we all vulnerable to Hormone Disrupting chemicals?
Hormone disrupting chemicals can pollute our environment, our water, soil, in turn our food and personal care products, which can interfere with the production and function of the normal hormones in our body. Humans are quite vulnerable to Hormone Disruptors during critical stages of development (i.e. fetal development, young age, puberty). In addition, increased exposure to these chemicals can still affect your body and immune system (3) adversely, even if you are an adult depending on your health status (autoimmune diseases (4), obesity (5), diabetes). Exposure to these chemicals can lead to a number of health complications such as weight gain, adrenal imbalances, lowered sperm count, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disruption etc. (6).
Can Hormone Disruptors affect your skin?
Did you know or even thought about that the ingredients in your skincare products can also cause a hormonal imbalance? As we age towards those lovely 30s, fabulous 40s, and beyond, our hormone levels change and our body’s response changes as well. Hormone disruptors can also affect the body’s largest organ, our skin!
Majority of the mass market personal care products such as shampoos, moisturizers, cosmetics, skin care products can often contain hormone disruptors such as phtalates, parabens, triclosan.
Unfortunately, in the Unites States, skincare products are not very well regulated or screened for safety. On the other hand, European Union (EU), Japan, Australia have banned hundreds of ingredients in personal care products. Number of banned ingredients in the US? Only 11! This ban does not include any of the Hormone Disrupting chemicals.
Exposure to Hormone Disruptors affects the hormonal system and natural balance of the body, and thus the skin. As a scientist who has been working in this area for years, I would suggest reading your ingredients carefully, research them, ask questions to experts. If your products have any of the Hormone Disruptors, throw them out. Especially, if you have an autoimmune disease, obesity, PCOS, and have questions in your mind, switch to something that will provide you ease of mind! Nothing is is more precious than your health. Switching to natural personal care products that are EWG Verified or completely transparent about the ingredients used, will help you avoid such exposures to such chemicals.
Chief Scientific Officer
1-Endocrine Disruptors – National Institutes of Health Webpage
2- Parabens: potential impact of low-affinity estrogen receptor binding chemicals on human health. Karpuzoglu E, Holladay SD, Gogal RM Jr. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2013;16(5):321-35. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2013.809252.
3- Immunomodulatory effects of environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals. Kuo CH1, Yang SN, Kuo PL, Hung CH.Kaohsiung. J Med Sci. 2012 Jul;28(7 Suppl):S37-42. doi: 10.1016/j.kjms.2012.05.008. Epub 2012 Jul 4.
4- Estrogenic endocrine disruptors and autoimmune disease. Schooling CM, Zhao J. Int J Epidemiol. 2015 Feb;44(1):363-4. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyu133. Epub 2014 Jul 4.
5- Environmental endocrine disruptors and obesity.Karoutsou E1, Polymeris A. Endocr Regul. 2012 Jan;46(1):37-46.
6- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement.Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Bourguignon JP, Giudice LC, Hauser R, Prins GS, Soto AM, Zoeller RT, Gore AC. Endocr Rev. 2009 Jun;30(4):293-342. doi: 10.1210/er.2009-0002.