Study Shows Chemicals from Hair, Beauty Products Impact Hormones, Especially in Pregnant Women

Most personal care and beauty products contain several ingredients that often include a wide range of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as phthalates, parabens, phenols, and toxic metals.

A new study has found that certain personal care products used during pregnancy may impact maternal hormone levels, according to a press release from Rutgers University.

Most personal care and beauty products contain several ingredients that often include a wide range of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as phthalates, parabens, phenols, and toxic metals. These compounds interact with hormone systems, influencing synthesis, regulation, transport, metabolism, and hormone reception. These chemicals can become vulnerable during pregnancy, according to the researchers.

The study examined the association between personal care product use and the levels of sex steroid hormones, including estrogens and progesterone, as well as thyroid hormones among pregnant women. The research team also analyzed how demographic factors impact the use of certain personal care products.

The team collected blood samples from 1070 pregnant women between 18 and 40 years of age enrolled in the Puerto Rico PROTECT cohort, which is an ongoing prospective birth study designed to examine environmental exposures in pregnant women and their children who live in the Northern Karst zone of Puerto Rico, according to the press release.

The participants underwent physical exams and completed a series of questionnaires providing their demographics, occupation, lifestyle, and use of personal care products such as fragrances, lotions, cosmetics, nail polish, shaving cream, mouthwash, shampoo, and other hair products, such as bleach and mousse. Additionally, the participants provided blood samples twice throughout their pregnancies, which were examined for 9 sex steroid and thyroid hormones.

The research team found that the use of hair products, particularly hair dyes, bleach, relaxers, and mousse are associated with lower levels of sex steroid hormones, which have a critical role maintaining pregnancy and fetal development. The disruptions of these hormones may contribute to adverse maternal and pregnancy outcomes, such as growth restriction, preterm birth, and low birth weight, according to the study authors.

“Alterations in hormone levels, especially during pregnancy, can have vast consequences beyond health at birth including changes in infant and child growth, pubertal trajectories and may influence development of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, uterine and ovarian cancer,” said lead study author, Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, in the press release. “Additional research should address the public health impact of exposure to chemicals in hair products in pregnant populations.”

Further, the research team found that socioeconomic variables, such as income, education, and employment status, influence the use of personal care products among pregnant women in Puerto Rico. An example of this is the participants who reported a household income greater than $100,000 use personal care products more often than participants with lower household incomes. The employed participants reported using more cosmetics than the participants who were unemployed.

“Prior research has shown that non-pregnant populations have also reported associations between frequency of use and socioeconomic markers, such as household income and education,” Rivera-Núñez said in the press release. “A strong culture of beauty influences Latina women, which may impact consistent use of cosmetics through pregnancy. This data is important because it will allow us to identify populations who are at an increased risk of chemical exposures associated with personal care product use.”

The research team recommends that primary physicians and obstetricians should speak to reproductive-age women about the potential health impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals, like those found in hair products.

REFERENCE

Chemicals from hair and beauty products impact hormones, especially during pregnancy. Rutgers University. December 10, 2021. Accessed December 15, 2021. https://www.rutgers.edu/news/chemicals-hair-and-beauty-products-impact-hormones-especially-during-pregnancy

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