There's a frog disruptor in your shampoo!*

Last week I wrote about Atrazine, an endocrine disruptor used widely in pesticides. These chemicals, which mimic human hormones, have been connected with genital deformities in fish, frogs, and possibly newborn baby boys.

This week I’m writing about endocrine disruptors in products a bit closer to home: skin creams, shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, and other cosmetics and personal-care products. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics site, endocrine disruptors such as phthalates that are used in cosmetics, “interfere with reproductive functioning by reducing the levels of sex hormones, which are critical for development and functioning of the sex organs. Additional research suggests that these same mechanisms may link phthalates to breast cancer.”

In his book Safe Trip to Eden, David Steinman writes about phthalates:

Because phthalates aren’t always strongly bonded to the materials to which they’ve been added, they can be absorbed through the human body through inhalation or the skin. The body’s largest organ, the skin is an exceptional vehicle for absorption of phthalates via cosmetics and personal care products, enabling their passage into the body without passing through the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal tract or without first passing through the liver, the body’s main detoxifying organ.

I decided to take a trip to CVS to see if I could find products without these chemicals. But virtually every cosmetic and personal-care product I found from shampoo to skin moisturizers, nail polish to sunscreen contains these or other similar chemicals.

I use a shampoo called Aveeno, Active Naturals with Nourishing Wheat Complex and Blue Lotus Flower. It’s in an earthy brownish bottle with images of wheat stalks on it. So it’s natural, right? No. It’s full of chemicals—a real chemical soup actually.

I also use a skin cream called Origins: A Perfect World, Intensely Hydrating Body Cream with Green Tea. The cream came in a very upscale-looking box wrapped with twine and recyclable green packaging. This cream isn’t as natural as it claims either. It’s manufactured by Estee Lauder and gets a so-so rating on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. (You can search almost any product here.) In fact, I found that some of the budget generic CVS skin creams get a better rating on the database than the pricey Origins.

I finally found some products at CVS that didn’t have chemicals—the Burt’s Bees products—but they weren’t in the cosmetics aisle. Feeling virtuous and frog-friendly, I plopped down $17.99 for Burt’s Bees Radiance SP 15, Day Lotion with Royal Jelly. On the container it says, “Never any Sulfates, Parabens, Phthalates, or Petrochemicals.” Great, right? Well, I used it and, unfortunately it contains a chemical-smelling fragrance, which to my sensitive nose, was so strong I couldn’t use the cream. Evidently cosmetic companies aren’t required to list ingredients in fragrances. So beware when it says “fragrance” as one of the ingredients.

I finally gave up and went to the local health food store. I found lots of chemical-free cosmetics and personal care products there. I ended up with Aubrey Organics, Rosa Mosqueta, Rose Hip, Moisturizing Cream. It has a nice almondy smell that reminds me of Jergens. Ingredients include aloe vera, sweet almond oil, and rose hip oil—and not one chemical!


I’m not saying you have to throw out all your cosmetics, but I would at least be aware of how products are marketed to seem natural or organic when they aren’t at all. Read the labels. Check your cosmetics in the Skin Deep database to see how they rate (note: they also have user reviews of cosmetics). And consider switching to chemical-free organic products. I welcome any feedback about natural cosmetics you’ve used and can recommend to others.

For more information: from Scientific American magazine, “Saving Face: How Safe Are Cosmetics and Body Care Products” and from The Daily Green, “How to Go Green: Nature Skin Care.”

*I got the title of this post from a post by John Laumer on Tree Hugger,”There’s a Frog Disruptor in your Soap,” which discusses the possible dangers of the chemical triclosan in soaps and other products.