If you’re pregnant or plan to be anytime soon, you might want to think long and hard about some of the personal care products you use. A recent study found that some soaps, cosmetics, and even kinds of toothpaste may contain chemicals that could cause girls to hit puberty earlier than normal.
Let’s take a closer look.
Inside the Study
Researchers looked at more than 300 children (179 girls and 159 boys) born to women in the Salinas Valley, a farming area located in the central portion of California. They followed these children from when they were born until they reached adolescence. The original intent was to determine how pesticides impacted the bodies of these children. However, the researchers decided they would also analyze how other chemicals affected the girls and boys.1
As it turns out, several studies have been performed regarding the early onset of puberty. And many of them found that early puberty could have severe health consequences. For example, children who reach puberty too soon could be at a heightened risk of certain illnesses.2,3
Now, this particular study found that the girls of mothers who used personal care products containing the chemicals triclosan (an antimicrobial chemical found in some brands of toothpaste) and diethyl phthalate (found in many cosmetics as well as perfumes) had elevated levels these chemicals in their bodies.
The problem with this, according to the study, is that researchers believe these chemicals can disrupt hormones in the body, interfering with normal development as a result.
In addition to diethyl phthalate and triclosan, parabens have also been identified as chemicals in personal care products that could affect development. Parabens are used in cosmetics as a preservative.
According to the results of the study, girls’ bodies hit puberty about a month earlier than normal when the amount of triclosan and diethyl phthalate doubled. They also found that girls who had elevated levels of parabens reached puberty earlier. The researchers did not know, however, if the reason was the chemicals in personal care products or the fact that the girls were more likely to use these products at an earlier age.
None of the boys in the study showed signs of early puberty.
Using Personal Care Products Wisely
Both men and women can take steps to not only limit their exposure to chemicals in personal care products but also to protect their unborn children from exposure. Here are some tips on how to go about doing it.
The average man typically uses six personal care products each day. Two in particular — aftershave and shaving cream may contain not only parabens but also triclosan. Look for products that don’t have these chemicals.
Women, on the other hand, will usually use about 12 different personal care products a day. Cosmetics, for example, will typically penetrate the skin and enter the body. Some women use skin lighteners – products that may or may not be approved by the FDA. Some of these products include mercury. This is a very poisonous chemical – and it’s especially dangerous if absorbed when a woman is pregnant.4
Never purchase any cosmetics, or other personal care products, without making sure all of the ingredients are clearly labeled.
Now, a lot of personal care products are undergoing increased scrutiny because of reported adverse effects that go beyond early puberty. Cosmetic manufacturers, for example, don’t legally have to report health issues to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s up to users of these products, as well as doctors, to let others know of any health problems they may be experiencing.5
Also, researchers conducting a study found the FDA received more than 5,000 health-related complaints involving cosmetic products between 2002 and 2016.6
Wrapping it Up
The purpose of highlighting this study is not to cause panic or urge you to suddenly go into your bathroom and throw away all your soap, cosmetics, shaving cream, or toothpaste. Instead, it’s meant to compel you to be a careful consumer and to take the time to make sure the products you purchase are free of potentially harmful ingredients. It may require a bit of work on your behalf, but the effort will be well worth it in the long run.
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