November 21st, 2018
Heavy periods, jawline acne, hair loss, hirsutism (male-patterned hair growth), fatigue, cravings, PMS in the form of bloating, irritability, and more, are all symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. It can be challenging to get to a root cause when it comes to hormonal imbalance – in fact, it’s typically a combination of a variety of contributing factors that cause the system to become imbalanced. The endocrine system (i.e., the hormonal system) is fierce but also extremelyyyy delicate and susceptible to stress of any sort. And when we’ve been bombarding our systems with too much stress–whether that’s poor food choices, a bad social circle, an emotionally draining job, environmental toxins, or a gut bug, for example–our hormones unapologetically take a hit.
I reallyyyy want/need/mustttt focus on environmental toxins in this post, particularly in the form of cosmetics + skincare, since women are the large population of consumers in this industry. (But men, don’t skimp out on reading this if you want a healthy sex drive, a reduced risk of prostate cancer, and healthy fertility because this affects you too.) While I truly, truly believe that the awareness of this issue is increasing (which is amazing) I still feel that not everyone understands the connection between what chemicals we put on our skin and how these chemicals are impacting our health.
Known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (i.e., chemicals that disrupt our natural hormones) are permitted for use in North America. When I first learned that this, I was shocked at this, and as sad as it made me, it made me realize how I had to be my own advocate when it came to my overall health. There are many chemicals that can have an effect on our overall health, but I’ve compiled a short-list to help you get started with what to look out for:
- Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, etc.)
- Phthalates → Pthalates, which are substances found in plastic, are found in toys, detergents, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, nail polish, and so many of our personal care products.
- BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
These chemicals are xenoestrogens: synthetic estrogens that have a 1000x stronger estrogenic effect than natural estrogen. If you’ve ever wondered why estrogen gets a bit of a bad rap, this is why. Naturally-occurring estrogen is necessary for women to function optimally, and the right metabolites of estrogen are actually protective against cancers and other diseases long-term. Xenoestrogens, on the other hand, are what are contributing to a huge rise in estrogen-dominance, in both females and men, and are especially dangerous for women with a family history of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer.
Because xenoestrogens are so strong, this can cause a quick imbalance between estrogen and other sex hormones in women, like progesterone and testosterone. Women need a healthy amount of testosterone for muscle mass and libido. And women need a healthy balance between estrogen and progesterone because otherwise, symptoms arise. It’s important to note that in the case of a true estrogen dominance hormonal condition, estrogen levels have exceeded those of progesterone.
While these chemicals can contribute, or in some cases lead to estrogen dominance, research has even further linked these chemicals to reproductive issues in both women trying to conceive, and in utero. Research found that a pregnant woman’s exposure to these chemicals altered the fetal programming, leading to PCOS and other adverse health effects; and also found that whether the exposure to these chemicals was short- or long-term, the exposure of these chemicals through different life cycles resulted in a disruption of reproductive function and hormone balance.
In order to get these chemicals out of our body, exercising avoidance of these products is essential. I get it though… it’s hard to completely avoid since they’re hiding in what seems to be everywhere. But there’s a lot that we can do to minimize our exposure as much as possible, and it starts with what we put on our skin!
While more companies are opting out of the use of parabens, pthalates, parfum, and other harmful chemicals, much of the conventional, drug-store products, or high-end cosmetic lines don’t subscribe to these beliefs. Some of my favourite clean beauty companies that still provide the performance and standard of beauty I’m looking for are: Beautycounter, Pura, RMS, and 100% Pure. I frequently review products of other brands over on my Instagram page, so be sure to follow me so you don’t miss it since transitioning products can be so challenging (and expensive).
If you want to read about my top 5 favourite Beautycounter products that I’ve used in replace of conventional, chemically-laden products, I wrote a post on it here. And if you have questions about this topic, shoot them below!
Male fertility + Phalates: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28810198
Male + reproductivity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK453249/
Reproductive health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3604737/