If you are struggling to get pregnant you probably have lots of questions, like I did. There are so many resources out there telling you to do different things and many people who will make assumptions about what your issue is. My advice would be take one step at a time – you can’t go from where you are to perfect just like that. I would recommend starting by cutting down on your exposure to endocrine disruptors in cosmetics and in your home in general. We will go into more detail on why it is so important but in summary – endocrine disruptors are chemicals that alter your hormonal balance and hormones are pretty crucial when it comes to babies! Of course endocrine disruptors are only one of many things that I think you should change if you are struggling to get pregnant and we can go into those in more detail another time, if you want some general information on chemicals to avoid check out this post.
What are endocrine disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are everywhere! They are in our skincare, makeup, shampoo, washing powder, food, plastic bottles etc etc. It would be impossible to avoid them completely but it is easy to cut down your exposure to them significantly.
Essentially endocrine disruptors are chemicals that affect our hormonal balance. The endocrine system is a series of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream to regulate various body functions. These functions include sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, the thyroid, the adrenal glad, growth hormone and insulin – blood sugar levels. Many substances affect our endocrine system and if they are ingested, absorbed or inhaled they will interfere with the production, action and/or elimination of our naturally present hormone.
Have a look at this little video below done by the hormone health network:
Most common endocrine disruptors in cosmetics
There are four endocrine disruptors that commonly occur in cosmetics and really should be avoided: Parabens, Plastics, phthalates and Pesticides.
Parabens: these are found in a lot of cosmetics as they are used as a preservative. They mimic estrogen in the body. There is some public awareness of the harmfulness of parabens vs. other chemicals and they can often be found on product ingredient lists but be careful as they can also be hidden under the guise of “fragrance” – I talk about this in detail in a previous post. These are some specific parabens to look out for on the ingredient lists:
Plastics are everywhere, infiltrating our lives, polluting our oceans, killing our wildlife and now they have been linked to disrupting our hormones! BPA which is pretty well-known as a nasty cheap type of plastic is still very widely used (although you can buy BPA free water bottles, children’ toys etc but we are still exposed to a lot of plastic with BPA). Try to buy cosmetics in glass or aluminum containers to avoid the toxins from the plastics leaking out into the product. Also avoid canned food where possible as most cans are lined with BPA!
Phthalates are used to make vinyl plastic malleable, they are found in fragrance and products with added fragrance and are also used as a preservative in personal care. Phthalates unlike the other elements above, do not have hormone mimicking effects. But they have been linked to changes in the reproductive development of baby boys and are associated with sperm damage in adults, there have been studies looking specifically at this issue. It is impossible to avoid them completely but definitely avoid anything with “fragrance” or “Parfum” in the ingredients list and try to minimise the amount of plastic you use – we should all be trying to minimise this for the environment anyway – so there is a double benefit. And something I need to do this weekend is throw away my vinyl shower curtain!
Pesticides are normally associated with the food we eat. But in terms of cosmetics – this is where organic beauty really comes in. Natural beauty products in theory cut down on harmful chemicals but we need to be careful where and how these natural ingredients have been sourced. Ideally buy natural beauty products where the majority of the ingredients have been certified as organic or bio dynamic.
If you want to explore this further check out the environmental working group’s dirty dozen list of endocrine disruptors which covers exposure across cosmetics as well as many other areas.
Why are they important to my fertility?
The chances of getting pregnant on any given month are shockingly low and of course decline dramatically with age. There have been lots of studies on this but on average it takes a healthy, young couple 4 months to get pregnant and as soon as you start to add in some minor factors the time multiplies and it can take years. Over my fertility journey I came across couples who had spent 15 – 20 years trying to get pregnant and once they went through rigorous testing to identify and solve their minor factors they managed to get pregnant naturally. One important minor factor that we can do something about is our exposure to endocrine disruptors in cosmetics as we know hormonal balance is crucial to our ability to conceive.
Keeping our hormones balanced is like walking a tightrope, but if achieved it allows us to do the simplest things like sleep, digest our food, and conceive babies. When that balance is disrupted, even a little bit, it can have major consequences. Hormone disruption mainly refers to one the below:
- Changing one hormone into another
- Halting hormone production
- Hormone mimicking
- Increasing hormone production
- Interfering with hormone signaling
- Binding to essential hormone
What should I change now to improve my fertility?
I hope you are convinced you should reduce your exposure to endocrine distruptors overall and especially in cosmetics and we put them directly onto our skin. Our skin is our biggest organ and absorbs over 60% of what we put onto it.
I want to help you make this switch as easily as possible so I have put together a list of products that I use and have cross-checked not just for endocrine disruptors but also for other nasty chemicals on the EWG skin deep database and the think dirty app.
- Cleanser: Beautycounter Face Cleanser which is EWG verified and all ingredients score 1. It has a good texture and doesn’t dry out the skin.
- Toner: Akar Skin Lush Balance Toning Mist, love that this is a spray and the brand story is great. The founder is from Hong Kong and she sources the ingredients in Tibet. It is packaged in dark violet glass allowing the product to stay fresh longer.
- Moisturiser for winter when my skin is extra dry: Salt & glow skin souffle smells so divine I almost want to eat it and has a great light yet creamy texture.
- Moisturiser for summer: Acure’s argan oil, keeps my face hydrated without breaking out. It doesn’t have a strong scent which I love & it is very reasonably priced!
- Liquid foundation – Inika organic is my current favourite. It has enough coverage to even your skin tone and hide imperfections but still gives a natural look. For heavier coverage used loose powder on top.
- Lip gloss & blusher combined – RMS lip2cheek is a versatile product that can be used on your cheeks to give you a lovely healthy glow as well as on the lips. It is mositurising and the colours are lovely and subtle. It is made using recycled glass packaging.
- Mascara – An all-rounder that lengthens & volumises: 100% Pure fruit pigmented ultra lengthening mascara, black tea
- Shampoo & Conditioner: Plaine products are a great option, they rate 0 on the think dirty app. All their packaging is aluminum which is 100% recyclable and they offer a refilling subscription service which is a great idea and of course they don’t use any harmful endocrine disruptors in their products.
Why wouldn’t you switch to better cosmetics?
If you are like me, you are willing to try anything to have that baby in your arms. Changing the cosmetics items you have at home can be quite hard work but I hope my suggestions above will help you do that more easily. You can still check anything you already have or fancy buying on EWG skin deep or think dirty app, if you can’t find the specific product you are looking for you need to check the ingredients one by one!
Endocrine distruptors in cosmetics do have an effect on your hormonal balance so in my opinion – why wouldn’t you eliminate this potential obstacle, even if this isn’t directly effecting your ability to get pregnant, you and your baby to be are definitely better off without these toxic chemicals in your lives!
Do leave me a comment and let me know what you use and if there are any products you are struggling to find good alternatives for!