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Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products Threaten Healthy Birth

cosmetic skincare

For many years, obstetricians and gynecologists have warned pregnant women to avoid everything from tobacco and caffeine to high heels. Now, it appears, they will begin alerting them about something else: toxic chemicals in their cosmetics.
– Scott Faber
Vice President of Government Affairs1

You may be watching out for what you’re putting in your mouth but are you paying attention to what you’re putting on your body?

Scientific evidence from the past 15 years along with EWG’s research concludes that reproductive health problems are linked to toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other personal care products. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine urged doctors to warn their patients about the significant and long-lasting effects on reproductive health that can be caused by toxic chemicals before conception and during pregnancy which include:


  • infertility
  • low birth weight
  • preterm birth
  • cancers
  • birth defects


You may have heard about the chemicals called parabens, which is an ingredient found in personal care products. These chemicals are dangerous because they mimic the hormone estrogen and interfere with the body’s hormone system. 

According to an EWG survey, an average woman uses about 12 personal products each day which mounts to a staggering 168 unique chemicals! Some of these chemicals penetrate the skin. One such chemical is phthalates which was found by scientists in tissues. Phthalates can be commonly found in cosmetics such as lotions, nail polishes, perfumes as well as plastic containers, toys, insecticides and more. A commonly used type of phthalates is DEHP. The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) says that DEHP “is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.

In tests performed on animals, a relatively high concentration of phthalates is needed to cause abnormalities. However, these substances have a greater effect on young and developing animals and can cause fertility related abnormalities. Studies have shown that DBP (a phthalate commonly used in cosmetics) caused a decrease in the number of live babies born in pregnant rats and mice.

Most cosmetics are not regulated and the public do not have comprehensive knowledge about the long-term effect it can have. It’s good to be extra cautious during pregnancy as the fetus absorbs more toxic chemicals in relation to their body mass compared to adults. Their system for detoxification is also not as developed as that of adults.

It’s good to always check the ingredients of your cosmetics and personal care products. So what are some ingredients you should avoid? We’ll talk about that in our next post.


References:1 Environmental Working Group

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