Two scary studies about synthetics in cosmetics

Here’s the thing: I try really hard not to be alarmist on this blog. Do I think that there are some really awful ingredients in most cosmetics? Yes. Do I think the industry should be more highly regulated? Absolutely. But I also believe in balance, and I recognize that there’s a lot more to the decisions you make about which products to buy than simply what’s on the ingredients list.

But, yesterday I read two things that really frightened me, and I think they’re worth sharing. They really solidify one of the reasons I am so passionate about natural beauty: It’s just as much about being healthy as it is about feeling and looking good. So here goes.

Doctors in San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center have recently discovered that bisphenol A (otherwise known as BPA) and methylparaben can keep breast cancer drugs from being effective. BPA is commonly used in plastics and to line aluminum cans, while methylparaben is one of those nasty ingredients often found in synthetic cosmetics.

Essentially what this means is that in addition to potentially causing cancer, these substances also potentially make cancer treatments ineffective. Here’s a quote from the story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Since most breast cancers are driven by the hormone estrogen, the bulk of the drugs used to treat breast cancer are designed to knock down estrogen. BPA and methylparaben not only mimic estrogen’s ability to drive cancer, but appear to be even better than the natural hormone in bypassing the ability of drugs to treat it, Goodson said.

But it was the final paragraph that scared me the most:

Goodson said BPA and methylparaben are hard to avoid because they are used so widely and are even found in household dust. He said he does not know whether the effects of exposure to the chemicals are reversible.

“It’s used so much. We kind of swim in it,” he said.

Then, I read about a different, small study of 20 teenage girls recently released from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). In it, the group tested the urine of teenage girls (who tend to use more cosmetics than older women)–and discovered synthetic, hormone-disrupting substances like methylparaben in every single one. It scares me to think about the effects these synthetic substances could have on adolescent girls whose bodies are already changing in so many ways.

I don’t know about you, but I want to go give all of my natural products a big hug today. Does this information make you re-think any of the products in your beauty routine?


(Photo via sarah azavezza.)

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