If you’ve been following my work for a while, you likely know that what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them.
Women on average use twelve personal care and cosmetics products per day, which amounts to approximately 168 different chemical ingredients! In contrast, men use an average of six personal care products, or an average of eighty-five chemicals, on a daily basis.
However, many people don’t realize that what we put on our skin eventually ends up circulating in our bodies. Often the topical application route actually ends up with us absorbing more of the toxin than we would have by swallowing it! This is because when we swallow a substance, our gut and liver process it first before it goes into the circulation system. When you apply substances via the skin, the substances skip the gatekeepers of the digestive tract and liver.
A subset of pharmacology is dedicated to the study of pharmacokinetics and how different administration routes can impact the amount of a substance that goes into the body’s circulation. The oral route of administration will result in the smallest amount of the substance moving into circulation, while alternative routes like rectal, vaginal, intravenous, intramuscular, inhalation, sublingual, and transdermal get directly into circulation.
So from a pharmacologist’s perspective, the skin is a huge absorptive organ for various substances, and there are so many harmful chemicals in our personal care products! These substances can act as endocrine disruptors that mimic and block hormone activity—this results in hormonal imbalances and affects thyroid function.
Last month the FDA officially announced a ban on 19 active ingredients commonly used in antibacterial hand soaps and body washes, due to the manufacturer’s inability to prove their safety and effectiveness. I’m happy to report that this ban includes two of the most commonly used active ingredients (and endocrine disruptors) in over-the-counter antibacterial soaps: triclosan and triclocarban.
Triclosan is similar in structure to thyroid hormone and has been shown to alter levels of thyroid hormone in animals with daily exposure. Studies have also linked triclosan to changes in the hormones estrogen and testosterone in animals. I’ve covered the effects of triclosan and other endocrine disrupting chemicals in my post, The Thyroid and Skin, and in my book, Hashimoto’s Root Cause back in 2013. I’m glad that the FDA is finally making a ruling to get these thyroid-disrupting chemicals out of our soaps!
Manufacturers have until September 6, 2017, to reformulate their products with approved ingredients, or they have to take them off the market.
Here’s the full list of ingredients included in the ruling:
- Iodophors (Iodine-containing ingredients)
- Iodine complex (ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate)
- Iodine complex (phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol)
- Nonylphenoxypoly (ethyleneoxy) ethanoliodine
- Poloxamer—iodine complex
- Povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent
- Undecoylium chloride iodine complex
- Methylbenzethonium chloride
- Phenol (greater than 1.5 percent)
- Phenol (less than 1.5 percent)
- Secondary amyltricresols
- Sodium oxychlorosene
- Triple dye
While I was very excited to hear that the FDA is taking some action to reduce our chemical burden, I was disappointed to read that the ban only applies to products intended for use as consumer antiseptic soaps, hand washes, and body washes.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t include other products that contain triclosan such as hand sanitizers, wipes, deodorants, hairsprays, or toothpaste. These hazardous chemicals will continue to be in some products that most people put on or in their bodies on a daily basis. It also doesn’t cover any products used in healthcare settings, the food industry, antiseptic rubs, or products categorized as “first aid.”
But let’s celebrate this huge step in the right direction! The FDA did indicate that there may be more changes to come, so that’s encouraging news.
In June 2016, they issued a proposed rule, which requires manufacturers of hand sanitizers to produce data that the active ingredients in their hand sanitizers are known as safe and effective in reducing bacteria on the skin. If they are unable to produce this data, it could result in a similar action for these products. The FDA also explained that they intend to evaluate the use of OTC antiseptics in the food industry as a separate issue.
If you need to use an antimicrobial product for work or disinfecting purposes, I suggest using an alcohol hand rub or rinse product that doesn’t list triclosan in the ingredients.
At home, you have a little more control over what you use, so I encourage you to opt for organic. I use Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day hand soap, as it is free of triclosan, parabens, mea & dea, formaldehyde and artificial colors as well as Dr. Bronner’s Shikakai Body Wash as a hand soap alternative. Both of these soaps work well, don’t dry my hands out, plus they have a nice scent!
If you’re looking for a triclosan (and fluoride) free toothpaste, I recommend Periobiotic toothpaste by Designs for Health. It’ll leave your breath fresh without the unwanted exposure to fluoride and triclosan.
For deodorant, I recommend either Pretty Frank (formerly Primal Pit) or Tom’s of Maine. Chlorophylls are natural deodorants, so that’s a great option as well. Supplementing with chlorophylls like Now Foods and Protocol for Life Balance can help you reduce your need for deodorant. Better yet, don’t wear anything on your armpits if you don’t have to! If you’re off on the weekends or working from home, then you may not even need to wear deodorant, especially in the winter months.
For my face, I absolutely love Annmarie Skin Care. I fell in love with their products a few years ago and can’t say enough good things about them. I love how much they care about the ingredients that go into their products, and I’m so excited that they’ve put together a special trial package for my readers. It’s a great way to test out the products to see if you like them before you invest in a new line.
You can also search the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for low toxicity and endocrine friendly products. This database ranks personal care products and companies based on safety and toxicity profiles. Ratings in the 1-2 range are best, and all Annmarie Skin Care products are in the 1-2 range. In fact, it’s the best ranges I’ve seen in products.
We can’t always control all the toxins we come in contact with, but when we can, it’s important to make the right choices. What are your thoughts on the FDA active ingredients ban? Were you using any of those chemicals unknowingly? If so, today’s a new day! Toss out the old and start fresh now.
- Bonner, L. FDA: Antibacterial soaps should be avoided. American Pharmacists Association. 2016. Available at: http://www.pharmacist.com/fda-antibacterial-soaps-should-be-avoided.
- Food and Drug Administration. Safety and Effectiveness of Consumer Antiseptics; Topical Antimicrobial Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use. Federal Register. 2016. Available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/09/06/2016-21337/safety-and-effectiveness-of-consumer-antiseptics-topical-antimicrobial-drug-products-for.
- Wentz I. Non-Toxic Beauty Products That Won’t Sacrifice Your Health. ThyroidPharmacist.com. 2016. Available at: https://thyroidpharmacist.com/articles/are-you-sacrificing-your-health-for-external-beauty.