Why Teen Girls Need Personal Toiletry and Cosmetic Swap Outs
If you and your teens are focused on healthy living, then you need to put a magnifying glass on the ingredient list of your commonly used shampoos, cosmetics and other toiletries. Many of these products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. Those ingredients can build up in your body, and more importantly in your teen’s body. The net result is a possible impact on hormone levels that are responsible for weight balance, fertility and other crucial body functions. A new study says “even a short swap out” can lead to a significant and immediate drop in levels of these hormone-disrupting chemicals.
The study out of University of California Berkeley, and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at a study of 100 Latina teens who participated in the HERMOSA study.
What is HERMOSA?
It’s a community and university collaboration between the university, the Clinica, and a team of researchers from CHAMACOS Youth Council, and focuses on a project meant to involve young people in public health and the environment.
What are endocrine disruptors?
These are chemicals that a certain doses, exposures, or consumption levels can interfere with the endocrine or hormone system in our body and the bodies of other mammals. The disruptions are linked to cancers, birth defects and other developmental disorders. These chemicals may also affect fertility and heighten the risk of developing diseases like obesity and diabetes. Any system in the body mediated by hormones can be negatively impacted by these hormone disruptors.
Researchers gave the 100 teens, personal care products that did not contain phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone. The labels reflected the missing chemicals, known hormone-disruptors. Those chemicals are also frequently found in cosmetics, hair products, soaps, sun blocks, and fragrances, among other personal care items. These chemicals have been vetted as hormone disruptors, meaning that research has confirmed that they interfere with the human endocrine system. Since women more so than men, tend to regularly use numerous personal care products, concern has risen for the teen population since they are still growing and developing. In teen girls there is also ongoing and rapid reproductive development. The more they use these products, the greater the exposure to the chemicals.
After three days, urine specimens were taken and compared to baseline urine samples taken before the swap out occurred. Significantly lower metabolite levels of the chemicals were noted:
• Diethyl phthalate a common chemical used in fragrances, decreased by 27%.
• Triclosan found in antibacterial soaps and some toothpaste brands.
• BP-3, found in certain sun blocks (oxybenzone) fell by 36%.
• Methyl and propyl parabens, preservatives used in certain cosmetics, dropped by 44-45%.
Using science to appeal to teens
This study suggests that explaining the science to teens and then asking them to “give it a try,” might be a wonderful way to get kids this age to embrace healthy changes without ordering them to do so. The fact that the teens were involved and experienced the benefits of the swap out so quickly can be a gateway to devising public health recommendations. In fact, after the study the teen participants took it upon themselves to educate friends and community members. They also presented their newfound cause to legislatures in Sacramento.
Another element that resonated with the teens was that the CHAMACOS Youth Council included twelve students who helped to design and implement the study. So the teens themselves were invested in the research model and the results.
Simple actions with a big payoff
One goal of the study was to educate teens on chemicals found in every day products that they use and the known negative health implications, so kids are more selective about the products they use in everyday life. Experiencing the drop off of measurable indicators of chemical exposure really garnered interest and was very successful in getting the teens to embrace a new healthy habit. Even the adults involved in the study relayed that they too would be reading more labels and swapping out toiletries for products with simpler and safer ingredients.
Another take away message was that even if you can’t find an equivalent swap out, you may be inclined to use the product less often or simply to use less of it. There is clear mounting concern about these hormone disruptors and living healthy can mean an examination of food and exercise habits, as well as evaluating choices we make in other sectors of our life.