By Essence Maston, PhD & Greg Hall, MD

A lot has been written in the news about endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. Many of these chemicals are found in shampoo, lotions, conditioners, lipstick, makeup, moisturizers, sunscreens, creams, and much more.

It is believed by some that the increase in obesity, or being overweight, particularly in African American women, is the cause. Black women have the highest rate of obesity and a high diabetes risk as well.  Similarly, Black girls have the earliest age at puberty.  It has been found that Black girls experience the beginning of their monthly periods 3 months earlier than White girls on average, and the age has been getting younger over the last 20 years. The earlier a girl goes through puberty, the higher the risk for breast and other hormone-related cancer later in life.

Many Products You Use

These hormone-disrupting chemicals are found in many makeup and hair products that are commonly used by Black women. One study found that four out of five hair and makeup products tested had hormone-disrupting chemicals in them. When using these products, they are frequently absorbed through the skin. Moisturizers and foundations, as well as eye makeup and hair straightening products had a surprising amount of these bad chemicals in them.

Avoid Make-up in Young Girls

Medical professionals suggest that young and pre-pubertal girls should avoid using makeup products as well as other glamor products, including fingernail polish, eyelashes (because the glue has chemicals that are absorbed), and lipstick. Some believe that exposure to these products either through their mother when they were pregnant or directly when they were very young may inadvertently hasten their puberty date.

One study found that the use of hair straightening chemicals in women was linked to a higher risk for uterine cancer. Another study found that simply using processed hair oil or hair perms was associated with earlier puberty.

Parabens are another EDC chemical frequently found in makeup and used as a preservative. The chemical is used to keep makeup from spoiling due to the growth of bacteria or mold. But their presence can cause the body to absorb it and can throw off hormone levels. Many companies ban the use of parabens in their products. However, lower-end companies coming from overseas still use them. When reading the labels, look for words with “paraben” to know if they’re present.

It is important to note that when a product has “fragrance” listed in its ingredients, the companies are not bound to list what ingredients are in their particular “fragrance.” So many times, banned ingredients are included in the “fragrance” of a product. To be safe fragrance-free products don’t have that problem.

Sweating May Be the Cure

A curious solution to all of the endocrine-disrupting chemicals that we absorb in our everyday life may be to “sweat them out.” Studies have found that in addition to finding these substances in the urine, they seem to be better excreted through sweat.  They found that these EDC chemicals are better excreted in the sweat.

This finding has encouraged many to get more exercise, and in particular, exercise that causes sweating. Researchers are also examining the benefit of saunas and steam baths.  Culturally, some Black women avoid sweating to preserve hairstyles and related matters, but we need to get the word out that sweating from little girls to pregnant women is of much more benefit than you would think.

Getting regular exercise that induces sweat from an early age and throughout your life can extend both the quality and quantity of your existence.