Could Your Beauty Routine Be Making You Sick?

Should you worry about what you’re putting on your skin? (Photo: Getty Images)

Most women choose beauty products based on their benefits — radiant skin, glossy hair, or an irresistible scent. But the very ingredients that make these products superior are thought to be quietly waging war on your health.

According to a new study, many of our favorite personal-care products are packed with ingredients such as parabens and phthalates, which help to preserve and improve the effectiveness of things like lotions, deodorants, makeup, nail polish, and hair spray. The downside? These chemicals are also thought to disrupt hormones that control crucial health functions like metabolism, sleep, and mood. In the long term, they’re even believed to cause obesity, cancer, neurobehavioral problems, and infertility. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But there’s good news: Switching to organic beauty products could flush these dangerous culprits out of your system in as little as three days.

At least that’s what was revealed by the just-released HERMOSA study — a collaboration between UC Berkeley, Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, and a team of youth researchers. Participants agreed to switch to organic beauty products for a short period, and the results were astonishing: After just three days, the young women showed drastically reduced levels of the offensive chemicals in their systems.

“We wanted to investigate whether replacing your personal-care products could lower your levels, and we were pleased to see that it did. No other studies had done that before,” said Kim Harley, PhD, of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health, who led the study.

The just-released study used teenage participants, who buy and use more beauty products than most adult women — and whose growth and development could be suffering due to their exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Now for the million-dollar question: Why aren’t these chemicals regulated by the Food and Drug Administration? The simple answer is there just isn’t enough evidence that parabens, phthalates, and their lesser-known counterparts have adverse health effects. In short, more research needs to be done.

“There is evidence that these chemicals act as hormone disruptors in rat studies, but we just don’t know a lot about their health effects in humans yet,” says Harley, adding: “Parabens cause breast cancer cells to proliferate in laboratory studies, but at this point there is no evidence showing that parabens cause breast cancer in women — largely because studies in humans are difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. [But] we have enough evidence that they disrupt our natural hormonal systems to be concerned.” In the meantime, these ingredients make it easier and cheaper to produce highly performing products, and some experts aren’t as worried about nonorganic ingredients.

While the verdict is still up in the air, it’s on us to choose organic products instead of rolling the dice on our health. And that could mean a total overhaul of your medicine cabinet. “By being careful consumers and reading labels, there are ways we can significantly reduce our exposure,” says Harley. And while organic beauty products may cost more, compare that to what you might spend in health care down the road if you choose not to make the switch.

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