Navigating ‘clean’ beauty can be a challenge – every brand has different standards when it comes to ingredients and substances that they will allow or prohibit in their product formulas. Your favorite eye cream might be vegan and gluten free, but its velvety smooth texture could be a result of silicon, an ingredient considered safe for use in the US, but banned in the EU as a carcinogenic toxin.
At its core, clean should mean that the product is safe for your health in both the short and long term.
Notably absent from the list above is EDC Free. Endocrine disrupting chemicals do exactly what their name suggests: they enter our bodies and interfere with our hormones, the messenger molecules like estrogen and serotonin charged with keeping our biological processes (think your monthly cycle) and internal networks (like your metabolism and sleep cycle) operating seamlessly. They either mimic our hormones or block connections with hormone receptors resulting in a chain reaction of disrupted biological function.
Here, we break down the most common EDCs in skincare and beauty:
Fragrance – is a general term that refers to the mixture of different chemicals to create a scent in a product. Many hormone disrupting ingredients including synthetic musks and essential oils are hidden in fragrance – since the substances that constitute the scent of a product do not require regulatory disclosure.
Parabens – commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, parabens mimic estrogen production interfering with hormone balance. They have been linked to infertility in men and women, increased risk of cancer, and cause skin sensitivity.
Phthalates – these chemicals are to cosmetics and fragrances to make products more flexible and to set their formulas. They impact the neurological and reproductive systems, and have been linked to infertility, asthma, ADHD, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, obesity, and low IQ.
Retinoids - Retinoids have been shown to negatively impact hormones by interfering with testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone – sex hormones which regulate reproduction. Retinol is not considered safe for pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Benzoyl Peroxide - Most commonly found in skincare to treat acne. Studies shows the potential for endocrine disruption with repeated exposure, and is not established as safe for pregnancy.
UV Filters – chemical UV filtering ingredients found in sunscreen are hormone disruptors that impact reproduction and development. They have also been found to be ecologically harmful to marine environments.
Salicylic Acid – in high quantities, this common exfoliating ingredient may imitate estrogen. In addition to disrupting hormonal function, salicylic acid is not recommended during pregnancy as it is made from the same chemical as aspirin, which may affect a baby’s circulation while in utero.
BHT – BHT is a preservative used in lipsticks and moisturizers that has been linked to allergic reactions, is considered a potential carcinogen, and is known to disrupt hormones, including potentially interfering with male and female sex hormones at high doses.
Soy – commonly known as lecithin, this ingredient belongs to a class of chemicals known as phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring plant compounds found in soy. They are commonly used as emollients in cosmetics to help soften and soothe skin. These products are considered endocrine disruptors as they can mimic estrogen or block estrogen production.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body – so treat it with care!
V: Are there any other surprising or lesser-known facts that you think all women should know about their hormones or any other aspects of their health?
TB: I don't think many women understand that hormones are connected to gut health. For example, when you are low in progesterone that will often trigger an overgrowth of yeast in the gut, which is why women end up with yeast infections or start to gain some belly fat as those progesterone levels go down.
The issue of dense breasts is also a pet peeve of mine. Many people don’t understand that dense breasts or heavy breasts are a sign of accumulating estrogen and that you can actually do something about that. So when you’re given a mammogram or ultrasound result that says you have dense breasts, don’t take it and then roll over. You actually want to begin a good protocol that helps to clean that excess estrogen out of your system, like eating more fiber and cruciferous vegetables and taking calcium gluconate.
And finally, the world of beauty starts from the inside first. Often, what is currently accepted as normal values for thyroid and other hormones really aren't normal and might not be normal for you. If you are struggling with acne or hair loss, dig deep into the world of androgens, thyroid hormones, blood sugar, and more because probably something there is driving it.
V: Final question: You do so much between your practice, your podcast, the book, and everything else. What keeps you motivated and inspired to do what you do?
TB: Wow, I love that question. I think it's the women I meet every day, and I would even extend it to the entire family. Every day in my practice, I hear people’s stories and know that there's a different path, and desperately want them — and the medical system — to be able to see that path. Because it doesn't have to be this way, and I am passionate about that. My story could have gone a different way. I could have been on about 15 medications by now and been a very different version of myself without the energy or the motivation to do all the things I do. But that's not what happened.