Can Toxins in Beauty Products Cause Obesity?

Reader Contribution by Lauren Holt
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There are lots of reasons to make your own beauty products, or to buy more natural brands. There are concerns about animal crueltyplastic, toxins and allergies. Any one of these issues could cause an individual to question his or her purchase of the top-selling brands in stores today. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics estimates that the average American exposes themselves to more than 126 different chemicals daily, most of them unregulated, which is enough to make anyone pause. But what about your weight? Does that ever enter your considerations for shampoo, face wash, soap or makeup?

Maybe it should.

According to a recent study in Obesity Reviews (reported here on Grist), many beauty products contain endocrine disruptors, which are linked to hormonal imbalances that can affect fat cell growth and distribution–that is, it could have an effect on how you gain weight. Termed “chemical calories,” the offending compounds are found in 70 percent of the top selling products (according to the Environmental Working Group), and only a few of the thousands of compounds in such products have even been tested. The most commonly used endocrine disruptors are Bisphenol-A and phthalates, found in shampoos, face cleansers, perfume, makeup, lotions, body wash and pretty much anything else you apply directly to your skin.

As with most toxins, endocrine disruptors are most dangerous for young children and infants in utero. Dr. Bruce Blumberg at the University of California at Irvine found that pregnant mice fed a dose of these chemical calories equivalent to normal human exposure had offspring who grew to be 10 percent fatter than average mice (they also had 10 percent more fat cells, which grew larger than normal).  

Making toxin-free beauty products at home can be fun and inexpensive.
Photo by iMakeGuernsey/Courtesy

In addition to this obesity connection, endocrine disruptors have been linked to early puberty, cancer, birth defects and low immunity. One study with deer mice that focused on BPA exposure found that female mice who were fed a BPA-supplemented diet (in amounts equivalent to what is deemed “safe” for human mothers to ingest) for two weeks before breeding and through weaning bore male deer mice who were less likely to breed due to a combination of deficient navigational ability and being less desirable to females. The researchers state that, while there is no direct link to comparable health threat in humans, the study does indicate some cause for concern. 

While our day-to-day life makes it impossible to say how much these toxins affect us, it’s probably not a bad idea to limit our exposure as much as possible, especially for children. According to the Grist article, Pediatrician Maida Galvez suggests that parents steer clear of products containing Bisphenol-A (in many plastics generally marked with a 7 in the recycle logo) and beauty products that contain phthalates. Fragrance-free, cruelty-free, vegetarian and vegan products are often made without these toxins (and will proudly say so on their websites). Alternatively, of course, you could always make your own!

Recipes: Gentle Herbal Shampoo
Conditioning Hair Rinse Recipes for All Hair Types
Facial Cleansers, Masks and Scrubs
Mint Body Lotion
Homemade Herbal Soaps

For more suggestions, check out these blogs: Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

You might also want to check out the possibility of new legislation for regulating cosmetics and labeling, which would help the FDA eliminate products that contain ingredients known to be dangerous for humans.  

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