When you talk about health, it's often about the diet we eat, how we move or our mental state. We rarely talk about the effect of skin care products on the skin and how they can also affect our hormones and fertility. What is actually beneficial to apply to the skin, and what should one be careful with? Let's dive deep into the subject and clear up all the question marks around skin care and hormone-disrupting substances.
Today, you can see a direct connection between our lifestyle and skin health. It is partly about the exposure to the sun, which has a direct connection to our ageing, if we live in a place with a lot of pollution, how we exercise, sleep, eat and if we are psychologically stressed. In other words, lifestyle can be decisive for how our skin feels, but it is also largely about the products we apply to the skin, and above all which ingredients they contain. It is not just the skin itself that is affected by what we expose it to - certain chemicals and hormone-disrupting substances we ingest have been shown to have a negative effect on our health and fertility. Something that is not necessarily visible on the outside, but which can have long-term consequences for our health.
Are women exposed to more hazardous chemicals than men?
The fact that we are all surrounded by many different chemicals in our everyday life is probably not something that any of us has failed to notice. Not being exposed to any hormone-disrupting and health - hazardous chemicals is difficult, in fact almost impossible in the society we live in today. An aspect that is important to highlight when it comes to exposure to toxins is that as a woman, you are at risk of being exposed to higher amounts of these substances than men are. Firstly, women use skin care, hair care, make-up and other cosmetics to a much greater extent than men do.
These are products that often contain long lists of contents. Of course, not all content has to be dangerous, but the number of substances you come into contact with in a day can be very high. In addition to this, women often work in professions where you are exposed to different types of chemicals. For example, more women than men work as cleaners where strong cleaning products are used, work in factories where textiles are impregnated with various substances, work as nail technicians in nail salons where you inhale the fumes from nail polish or in perfume and make-up departments. The list goes on! In other words, many women work more often in environments where you handle or come into contact with chemicals of various kinds every day, and often use more daily hygiene and beauty products. And we should not forget that it is often the women who clean the home the most.
How many different substances are we exposed to during a day?
How many substances we are exposed to is highly individual, but if you add up all the substances that women often come into contact with in a day just through their skin care and make-up routine, you can quite quickly be up to hundreds of substances. Of course, not all substances are dangerous to health, but the more products, the greater the risk. For example, if you use around 10 different hygiene products every day, they can contain over 100 different substances in total, as hygiene products rarely consist of fewer than 10 ingredients.
Our best tip is to have a more stripped-down approach to skin care, cleansing and make-up. Instead of having many products, focus on a few really good and beneficial products. In this way, you avoid the possible "cocktail effect" of using many different products with varying contents and ingredients.
How does what we apply to the skin affect our health and how is the hormonal system connected to this?
The hormone system works together with the nervous system to control many functions in the body, including metabolism and our fertility. The hormonal system consists of glands and cells where hormones are formed, which are then transported via the blood to the organs where they are needed. You can therefore say that the hormones are the body's messengers. This means that when the hormones are affected in any way, it can affect our whole body.
How do you know which substances are endocrine disruptors and what are PFAS?
Hormone-disrupting substances are found in many of our most used and everyday products such as certain deodorants, make-up, skin and hair care. A global survey conducted by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals 2020 showed that three out of four of the most popular beauty products contain substances that were suspected to be hormone-disrupting, allergenic or otherwise harmful to health or the environment. Of 31 products sold in Sweden, only two of these were free from unwanted substances.
Examples of hormone-disrupting substances can be written as: Benzophenone 1, Benzophenone 3, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, Cyclomethicone, Cyclotetrasiloxane.
PFAS is a collective name for endocrine-disrupting substances that can be found in many women's most everyday beauty products. These substances are created in labs to resist grease, dirt and water. When these end up in nature, they cannot be broken down but remain and can be stored in plants and animals. In animal experiments, it has been shown that some of these substances have caused organ damage, impaired the immune system and the ability to have children.
PFAS are also called highly fluorinated substances and can be seen in the list of contents with the following abbreviation: Ammonium C6-16 Perfluoroalkylethyl Phosphate, Polyperfluoroethoxymethoxy difluoroethyl PEG phosphate, Polyperfluoromethylisopropyl ether, Perfluorononyl dimethicone, and Polytef (PTFE). PTFE, polytef, all words containing perfluoro or polyfluoro, as well as decafluoropentane and C9-15 or C8-18 fluoro alcohol.
Are perfumed products good for our hormones and health?
Perfume is a collective term that can include several hundred substances. These substances do not need to be reported in the list of ingredients, but are collected under the description "perfume/perfume/fragrance". Perfume often contains a substance called phthalates and this can be endocrine disrupting, however, phthalates rarely need to be declared and can likewise be included under "fragrance" or "alcohol denat".
Perfumed products are also considered to be allergenic and in some cases can cause eczema. Most beauty or hygiene products that the average person uses in a day contain perfume. It can be anything from soap, make-up, deodorant, skin cream and other hair care products, meaning many of us are exposed to a range of perfumes in just one day. Perfume is only there for the reason of adding fragrance, nothing is added because the skin actually needs perfume.
- Review which of your favorite products contain perfume and reflect on whether all the products you use on a daily basis really need to be perfumed.
- Instead of perfumed products that are used directly on the skin, you can spray a little perfume in your hair or on your clothes to avoid direct contact with the skin.
Why are skin-specific substances something to look out for in skin care?
What is most natural for the skin is called skin-specific substances, these are substances that the skin itself produces and is used to. Examples of this are oils that the skin itself produces, including squalene, ceramides and cholesterol. These ingredients have effects such as softening and moisturizing. The ingredients that we find "naturally" in nature can also be good for certain purposes in skin care, but do not always have to be "natural" for our skin.
Why are there preservatives in skin care products?
Skin care products almost always contain water that is added to make the product work as intended. In order for the product to have a good and durable consistency, you also need some form of preservative. Today there are approximately 60 approved preservatives, but unfortunately many of these are listed as allergens, which means they can have an irritating effect on our skin. Many of these preservatives can disrupt the body's hormones, and are therefore usually referred to as endocrine disruptors. In order for a product to have a reasonable shelf life, however, some type of preservative is required unless you make a completely fresh product, which would only last a few weeks.
- Look for preservatives that are approved according to the certification body ecocert, for example Potassium Sorbate, which is considered to be the least allergenic preservative.
- Choose products that have a six or twelve month shelf life versus a 24 or 36 month shelf life from opening the product.
Womensync's skin care is kind to the skin and is suitable for before, during and after pregnancy as well as for children and those with sensitive skin. We ourselves experienced how difficult it was to navigate skin care and understand ingredient lists and found no existing options that lived up to our own requirements. In developing the skin care products, the focus was on avoiding unnecessary additives and chemicals and keeping the list of ingredients down.
Read more about: Body Wash Fresh Revival
Read more about: Body Lotion Silk Dream
Source of skin-specific substances and what affects our skin:
Womensync podcast episode #25 Which type of skin care is really best with Dr. Johanna Gillbro and the book Skin Bible by Johanna Gillbro
Source hormone system: 1177
Source PFAS: Naturskyddsföreningen
Source what is PFAS: https://www.kemi.se/kemiska-amnen-och-material/hogfluorerade-amnen---pfas#h-Anvandning
Source: Many common beauty products contain hormone-disrupting substances: Sweden's consumers
https://www.sverigeskonsumenter.se/nyheter-press/nyheter-och-pressmedälden/granskning-av-skonhetsprodukter/ / https://dokumentation.taenk.dk/sites/default/files/fbr_taenk_kemi_cosmetics_around_the_globe_same_contents.pdf
Source Synthetic musk and phthalates: Lund University
Article by Amanda Jenninger and Womensync.