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Endocrine Disruption and Skincare: Ingredients to Avoid for Healthier Skin

In today’s world, we are more conscious than ever about what we put on our skin. As the largest organ in our body, our skin absorbs everything we apply to it. Unfortunately, many conventional skincare products contain ingredients that can disrupt our endocrine system, which can have serious long-term health consequences.

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What is Endocrine Disruption?

The endocrine system is a complex network of glands that produce and secrete hormones directly into the bloodstream. These hormones are essential chemical messengers that regulate various bodily functions. Here’s a closer look at what the endocrine system does:

Regulates Growth and Development

  • Growth Hormone: Produced by the pituitary gland, it stimulates growth in children and helps maintain tissues and organs throughout life.

  • Thyroid Hormones: Produced by the thyroid gland, they regulate the body's metabolism, energy levels, and overall growth and development.

Controls Metabolism and Energy Balance

  • Insulin and Glucagon: Secreted by the pancreas, these hormones control blood sugar levels. Insulin helps cells absorb glucose for energy, while glucagon raises blood sugar levels when needed.

  • Thyroid Hormones also play a key role in regulating metabolic rate and energy expenditure.

Regulates Reproductive Processes

  • Estrogen and Progesterone: Produced by the ovaries, these hormones regulate the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and secondary sexual characteristics in women.

  • Testosterone: Produced by the testes, it is responsible for sperm production and secondary sexual characteristics in men.

Maintains Homeostasis

  • Cortisol: Produced by the adrenal glands, it helps the body respond to stress, maintains blood pressure, and regulates metabolism.

  • Aldosterone: Also from the adrenal glands, it helps regulate blood pressure by balancing sodium and potassium levels in the body.

Supports Immune Function

  • Thymosin: Produced by the thymus, it stimulates the development of disease-fighting T-cells.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with this intricate system. They can mimic, block, or alter hormone production, leading to a range of health issues such as hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems, developmental disorders, and even certain cancers.

Common Endocrine Disruptors in Skincare Products

  • Found in: Preservatives in lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and makeup.

  • Why they’re harmful: Parabens mimic estrogen and have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. They can also cause skin irritation and allergies.

  • Found in: Fragrances, nail polishes, and hair sprays.

  • Why they’re harmful: Phthalates disrupt the production of androgens, affecting reproductive development and leading to issues such as reduced fertility and developmental problems in children.

  • Found in: Antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, and deodorants.

  • Why they’re harmful: Triclosan can affect thyroid hormone levels and disrupt the endocrine system. It can also contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Found in: Cleansers, shampoos, and toothpaste.

  • Why they’re harmful: These chemicals can irritate the skin and eyes and have been linked to hormone disruption.

  • Found in: Many skincare and beauty products.

  • Why they’re harmful: The term "fragrance" can hide numerous chemicals, many of which can be endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can cause allergies, respiratory issues, and hormone imbalances.

BPA (Bisphenol A)
  • Found in: Some plastic packaging for skincare products.

  • Why they’re harmful: BPA can mimic estrogen and has been linked to various health issues, including breast cancer, heart disease, and reproductive problems.

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Herbal Skin Salve

How to Avoid Endocrine Disruptors

Read Labels Carefully- Look for products labeled “paraben-free,” “phthalate-free,” and “fragrance-free.” Be cautious of vague terms like “fragrance,” as they can include hidden chemicals.

Choose Natural and Organic Products- Opt for skincare products that use natural and organic ingredients. These products are less likely to contain harmful chemicals and are often more gentle on the skin.

DIY Skincare- Making your own skincare products can ensure you know exactly what goes into them. Simple ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils can be used to create effective and safe skincare solutions.

Look for Certifications- Products certified by organizations like the USDA Organic or the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are more likely to be free from harmful chemicals.

Looking for the Ultimate Herbal Self-Care Guide?

Discover our collaborative publication, "Beauty in Bloom," created in partnership with the Karminative Kollective. This anthology offers a treasure trove of DIY herbal skincare recipes, tips, and expert advice from 30 herbalists. Whether you’re a seasoned herbal enthusiast or new to botanical wellness, you’ll find everything you need to create your own natural skincare products at home.

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