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How cosmetics can affect our endocrine system, hormones and metabolism

Endocrine Disruptors

Everything affects everything. Especially when it comes to our body. What we eat, our lifestyle, sleep cycles and the products we use in our homes and on our bodies. When it comes to skincare and cosmetics we know the effects they have on our skin. We want these effects. To hydrate the skin, clear blemishes and plump. But these products are often also having adverse effects on our internal bodies. Here we spoke with cosmetic chemist and the founder of Biologi Ross MacDougald on how cosmetics can affect our endocrine system. With over 30 years experience in all spheres of the beauty industry, MacDougald now dedicates his Instagram to debunking the myths that permeate the industry. 


What is the endocrine system?

The endocrine system is the collection of glands such as the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries and testicles that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.


How do the products we apply to our skin affect the endocrine system?

Over the past 70 years it has been discovered that certain ingredients in the everyday products we use around us, consume or apply to our skin are able to increase or decrease the hormone production in our internal glands. Man has known about endocrine disruption since the early 1920’s with animals. In the 1960’s this phenomenon was seen from man-made chemicals in wildlife populations from the overuse of pesticides and herbicides. Focus on human endocrine health started in the 1990’s after studies revealed endocrine disruption in human reproduction. 

What are endocrine disruptors?

The chemicals that cause the increase or decrease in the production of hormones in our body are called endocrine disruptors. Sometimes also referred to as hormonally active agents, endocrine disrupting chemicals, or endocrine disrupting compounds are chemicals that can interfere with endocrine systems. These chemicals can be found in cosmetics, skincare and personal care products, all which are applied to the skin.


What are the long term effects of these on the body?

The effects of increased or decreased amounts of hormones in our body creates in-balance in our system that leads to inflammation and disease. The most common disease is diabetes along with numerous cancers - the list increases every year as we get to understand the damages these chemicals are causing. At present, there are actually nearly 50 known diseases and the list is growing which astounds me.

Some common endocrine disorders/diseases are Addison's Disease, Adrenal Disorders, Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer, Cushing's Syndrome, Diabetes, Follicular Thyroid Cancer, Gestational Diabetes, Graves' Disease, Growth Disorders, Growth Hormone Deficiency, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Heart Disease, Hyperglycemia, Low Testosterone, Menopause, Obesity, Osteoporosis, Papillary Thyroid Cancer, Parathyroid Diseases, Pituitary Disorders, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Prediabetes Reproduction, Thyroid Cancer, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, there are many people I know that have these disorders and struggle with the effects on a day to day basis. 


Are there specific ingredients that should be avoided?

Yes, there are specific ingredients that should be avoided and unfortunately the list is long! In my opinion, it shouldn’t be up to the consumer to avoid these ingredients. It should be up to brands and manufacturers to not put them in their products in the first place. This is something I’m really passionate about and is a big reason why I created Biologi. Beyond offering consumers 100% natural products, we spend a lot of time trying to educate consumers about what they are putting on their skin. 

Until some changes are made in the industry and until these ingredients are banned, watch out for ingredients like: Dieldrin, Lindane, Pesticides, Atrazine, Herbicide, Bisphenol A, Plastics, Phthalate esters, Plastics / Fragrances, Alkyl phenols, Detergents / Surfactants, Parabens, Preservative Triclosan, Antiseptic, Benzophenones, Sunscreen/UV Absorption, Benzyl salicylate, Musks, Fragrance.

There are many more listed which you can view on Science Direct

This list increases every year as further testing and investigations are done. Essentials oils, glycols and silicones to name a few now have data on them showing endocrine disruption. 


In what ways can the effects of endocrine disrupters be reversed/ treated/ cured?

From my research and the documentaryToxic Beauty” the removal of endocrine disruptors from your life will stop the toxicity of these chemicals in your body. This means checking every ingredient list of every product you use and eliminating every one that has known disruptors in them.

Unfortunately, as the industry is largely unregulated and you can still find these chemicals in products, it is up to the consumer to do their own research. Don’t just trust what the brands are telling you as most have an agenda to sell you their products. Go to credible websites, read third party studies and check the ingredients on the back of the products. Don’t just go by what the front of the product says. Also be careful of marketing strategies that focus on listing ‘no’ this or ‘no’ that. It is a tactic that diverts your attention away from what is actually in the product.