Choosing the right soaps and shampoos does more than help you look and smell good - it can also save your life by reducing your risk of cancer, brain damage and weight problems. A new study reveals fresh evidence that certain soaps, lotions and makeup can significantly disrupt hormone levels in teenage girls.
The latest findings are important because previous studies have linked some chemicals in hygiene products and cosmetics to irregularities in the human endocrine system, which influences nearly everything from how we feel to how we grow.
After looking at data from 100 Hispanic teenagers participating in the Health and Environmental Research on Makeup of Salinas Adolescents (HERMOSA) study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that using the right personal care products makes a significant difference when it comes to chemical exposure.
Participants in the experiment were given hygiene products labeled free of chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone. These chemicals, which are commonly found in personal care products, have bene linked to disruptions in the endocrine system as well as neurobehavioral problems, obesity and cancer cell growth, said researchers from the current study.
Scientists examined before and after urine samples collected from participants and found a significant drop in levels of harmful chemicals after just three days of using chemical-free hygiene products.
Study results revealed a 27 percent decrease in metabolites of diethyl phthalate, 44 percent decrease in methyl parabens, 45 percent decrease in propyl parabens and a 36 percent decrease in triclosan.
"One of the goals of our study was to create awareness among the participants of the chemicals found in everyday products, to help make people more conscious about what they're using," study author Maritza Cárdenas said. "Seeing the drop in chemical levels after just three days shows that simple actions can be taken, such as choosing products with fewer chemicals, and make a difference."
"The results of the study are particularly interesting on a scientific level, but the fact that high school students led the study set a new path to engaging youth to learn about science and how it can be used to improve the health of their communities," added co-author Kimberly Parra. "After learning of the results, the youth took it upon themselves to educate friends and community members, and presented their cause to legislatures in Sacramento."
Researchers noted that the latest findings are particularly important for women.
"Because women are the primary consumers of many personal care products, they may be disproportionately exposed to these chemicals," explained lead author Kim Harley, associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health.
"Teen girls may be at particular risk since it's a time of rapid reproductive development, and research has suggested that they use more personal care products per day than the average adult woman," she concluded.
The latest findings were published Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.