Updated: May 12, 2020
Skincare Spring Clean
Sure, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and you probably haven’t even opened your makeup drawer. But we’re still implementing some sort of skin care routine into our quarantine lives. If you’re like me, that ten to twenty minutes alone in the bathroom (or mostly alone if you have a toddler) is all you get to yourself for the day.
We lather, exfoliate, moisturize, rinse, repeat. Do you ever think about what’s in those bottles lining your bathroom shelves? Doubtful that we think about how our moisturizers impact our reproductive health.
My eyes were opened to the issue of environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors back in 2015, when I was pregnant with my first child. At the time, I was working with a local skincare specialist and used a high dose of topical salicylic acid. The specialist noted that some studies reported links to this ingredient and birth defects. What on earth? If it can do that to my unborn baby, there has to be more I don’t know about.
I was in full momma bear mode so naturally I started googling scientific research. I wasn’t letting anything potentially unsafe enter my bloodstream and reach my kid. Turns out, sacylic acid isn’t even the worst part of most skincare products. For two years, I looked into alternatives and finally tossed the skincare products I was using into the trash. I had been using it for seven years. It was like a common law divorce.
In a bit, I’ll outline my process for you and what products I eventually landed on. But first, what even are environmental toxins? They’re just that – toxins in our environment (not just trees and parks, but our literal housing environments, bathroom cupboards, etc.) that affect our bodies. You probably follow at least one person on social media whose mission is to rid the world of these toxins.
That’s too much to tackle at once. So, I focused on getting rid of endocrine disruptors. These chemicals are either manmade or naturally-occuring and they mimic or mess with your hormones. Disruptors have been linked to developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune system-related issues.
I learned most of what I know about endocrine disruptors from Dr. Lora Shahine, a reproductive endocrinologist specializing in infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss at Pacific NW Fertility and IVF Specialists in Seattle. She presents her research in an easy to understand format to help you learn about disruptors and how to remove them from your home.
Buzzword – BPA
One disruptor Dr. Shahine talks about is infamous mostly because it’s become a sticker on every water bottle in Wal-Mart – BPA or 2,2-bis (4-hydroxyphenyl) propane or bisphenol A. According to a 2009 article in the American Journal of Public Health, BPA was first synthesized in 1891, but not used in any trials until the 1930s. Edward Charles Dodds, a medical researcher at the University of London tested the compound’s estrogenic properties before he created diethylstilbestrol (DES), used for women’s reproductive “health” but was banned in the 1970s due to its carcinogenicity.
Thankfully, BPA failed to become a medication, but in the 50s, various industries realized its effectiveness in epoxy resin production. Before we knew it, BPA was found in almost every major industry. Dr. Shanine says BPA “binds to hormonal receptors and interferes with the function of reproductive hormones.” She cites research stating that 95 percent of Americans have some amount of BPA in their bloodstream. The disruptor has been found in amniotic fluid and high levels of BPA can interfere with a baby’s brain and reproductive system development.
There’s plenty of ways to reduce BPA’s presence in your home. Mainly, look at your kitchen and anything plastic. As it gets worn, replace it with glass or stainless steel. Stop drinking out of plastic water bottles. At the very least, avoid reheating foods in plastic containers.
Pro tip - the “ph” is silent. Its negative effects on your health are not so silent. Dr. Shahine writes that this chemical was developed in the 1920s to make plastics more flexible. Phthalates are found in flooring, furniture, toys, PVC pipes, food containers, etc. Make sense right?
Phthalates also make artificial scents last longer. Lo and behold, we find them in shampoos, lotions, nail polish, hairspray, etc.
Like BPA, this chemical disrupts the endocrine system by interfering with the function of estrogen and testosterone. Dr. Shahine writes in the aforementioned post, “Higher levels of phthalates have been associated with disruption in menstruation, ovulation dysfunction, and increased risk of endometriosis.”
Studies show that increased levels of phthalates in both men and women are associated with longer time to conception and eventual infertility. Phthalate exposure is also linked to poor egg and sperm quality.
So why don’t we hear much about phthalate regulation? There’s been some (not much) legislation concerning the use of phthalates in children’s toys. But, get this – the FDA has more than 10,000 cosmetic ingredients listed but only 11 have been reviewed for phthalates. The CDC evaluated phthalates in Americans and women had higher levels than men. This shouldn’t be a surprise since we use creams, serums, sprays and soaps on basically every inch of our body.
Legislation is slow to catch up to research – this is nothing new. It’s up to each consumer to do our own research and find ways to protect our health and that of our children.
This sounds like a huge job. As if feeding our kids the right food and getting them to move enough and sleep enough and poop enough and wash their hands enough and keep their hand out of their mouth – as if monitoring all of that wasn’t enough already. It’s clear that we should care about this issue. But is the switch to safer ingredients too much work? Too expensive? Too time-consuming? How do we switch?
It’s simple – one product at a time. Dr. Shahine encourages us to replace one item at a time. Do you want to decrease BPA levels in your world? Maybe see if those stainless steel water bottles you’ve been seeing go on sale and replace that plastic one. Do you want to remove more phthalates from your beauty routine? When you run out of moisturizer, replace it with something certified by the Environmental Working Group.
The EWG is a working library of products that rates toxicity levels and tells you if that discounted shampoo is safe or not. EWG scores each ingredient in several categories, including cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, and use restrictions. They also have an app!
Here’s how I made the change from my long-term skincare products to something free of endocrine disruptors. It wasn’t an overnight change and it wasn’t cheap. But it happened over a long period of time (four years) and was totally worth it.. Here’s a timeline of the products I tried, my thoughts and what their price tag looks like.
1. True Botanicals
I tried the “clear line” from 2017-2019. I found this one through EWG after I saw Leann Rhymes raving about it on social media.
My thoughts: Pretty pricey but I justified the purchase because I don’t spend money on makeup. My skin didn’t feel like sandpaper and nothing burned when applied (always a bonus). However, I still had some bad cystic acne breakouts.
Scent: Earthy tones. Overall, I liked it.
I used the “Top Shelfies” kit for about a month after hearing about it in a Youtube skincare review.
My thoughts: I liked that a lot of their products have the highest EWG rating and that they are part of the “clean beauty” movement. I did like the prices of the products and that they had a lot of sample sizes to try out the products first!
Scent: My biggest complaint was the smell (specifically the omega repair cream). I tried to get past the smell and just couldn’t! Hence, the short term relationship.
A friend was selling BeautyCounter on Facebook and it seemed effective for her. I am so glad I took a chance on these products. I use the anti-aging line, called Countertime.
My thoughts: I saw that 30 or so of their products get the best EWG rating and they ban 1,800 chemicals from all their products. I loved their sunscreen because, unlike other sunscreens I used that were safe, this one was like putting on lotion vs rubbing my body in sticky oil and it didn’t leave my skin with a white tint. Their products feel more luxurious than True Botanicals and are cheaper. You get more product for the price. They also have a men’s and kids line so my whole family uses their products.
If you would like free samples of BeautyCounter, keep scrolling and fill out the contact form!
Scent: delightful, nothing overpowering.
I completely understand that learning about environmental toxins, endocrine disruptors can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.
Take it one product at a time. Do what fits your skin, your health, your budget and your family. Little changes in our daily habits can make a big difference.
Vogel SA. The politics of plastics: the making and unmaking of bisphenol a "safety". Am J Public Health. 2009;99 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):S559‐S566. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.15922