Here's how your beauty routine can affect your fertility
You may be trying to conceive. Maybe plan for that in the future. Or the title of this article may have piqued your interest because you never thought a beauty product could affect your fertility. Either way, with the advent of consumer education and more clean beauty brands, there has been a shift in the industry. You want formulas that are healthy for your skin (and your body). To help, we decided to dig a little deeper to find out what specifically might be affecting your fertility.
Below, Dr. Lucky Sekhon, board-certified ob/GYN, reproductive endocrinologist, and infertility specialist, offers insight into the field. Plus, Byrdie Vice President and General Manager Leah Weyer share how her experience with cutting back on her routine led to a successful pregnancy after a two-year struggle.
Meet the expert
Dr. Lucky Sekhon is a reproductive endocrinologist, infertility specialist, and board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist at the Society for Reproductive Medicine of New York. She has special expertise in fertility preservation (egg freezing), LGBTQ family building, and in vitro fertilization.
Can your products affect fertility?
The biggest factors in determining the odds of a healthy and successful pregnancy are age and genetics - so exploring beauty products as they relate to fertility is a new development with a number of inconclusive studies. However, Sekhon notes, "Environmental issues can certainly exacerbate underlying fertility issues and can increase the odds of hormonal problems in future children who are exposed to these toxins in the womb." The key to being healthier in your product choices is being an educated consumer - if you're reading this now, you're already halfway there.
Sekhon highlights four commonly used ingredients in cosmetics and skin care products that may not be fertility friendly and can cause endocrine disruptors. 1
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can disrupt the body's endocrine system (the glands that make hormones in the body) and cause adverse effects on the developmental, reproductive, nervous, and immune systems.
Ingredients to Avoid
Parabens are a group of chemicals commonly used as synthetic preservatives in moisturizers, cleansers, sunscreens, deodorants, shaving gels, toothpaste, makeup, shampoos, and conditioners. Since cosmetics contain ingredients that biodegrade, parabens are added to increase the shelf life of the product and prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. “The most common parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben,” says Sekhon. “These drugs are known to disrupt hormone function, with the ability to bind to estrogen receptors in the body, an effect linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.” Dr. Sekhon recommends that until more is known regarding the potential effects of long-chain parabens on human fertility,2
Triclosan has been used as an ingredient in personal care products for decades (because it can reduce or prevent bacterial contamination). You can find it in the ingredient lists of antibacterial soaps, body washes, toothpaste, and some cosmetics. Sekhon notes that triclosan "has a similar chemical structure to known endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA." "While it is difficult to draw any strong conclusion from the few human studies currently in place, triclosan can act as an anti-estrogen with potentially harmful effects on reproductive health," she adds. 3
Phthalates are used as solvents and are commonly found in nail polish, hair spray, aftershave, soaps, shampoos, and perfumes. “Exposure to phthalates has been linked to abnormalities in the level of sex hormones, as well as decreased sperm count and quality,” says Sekhon. 4 “High urinary phthalate concentrations have also been associated with a lower likelihood of successful IVF treatment (lower number of eggs retrieved, lower probability of fertilization).” Phthalates are rarely listed as an ingredient on product labels, but the words "fragrance" and "fragrance" are indications that phthalates may be used.
Lead and lead compounds are commonly found in lipstick. Because it gets around our mouths and is often ingested, it is wise to eliminate exposure to lead-containing lipsticks. "Lead poisoning is very dangerous for the female reproductive system," Sekhon explains. "It can make women less fertile, it can cause abnormal menstrual cycles, and it may affect menopause." 5 And while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that the amount of lead in cosmetics (less than 10 ppm) does not pose a health risk, this information is still important to consider.
What about men?
Men also need to think about fertility. Parabens and especially phthalates may negatively affect sperm. 6 Because men produce new sperm every three months, changes in diet and the environment can reverse some of the PORe fer to your cleaning routine to make sure that you get him to try Botox, lasers, peels, and other aesthetic procedures. "I feel like cutting down on potentially harmful chemical chemicals in a particular color," she says. "I made sure the three products I kept in my routine were clean—specifically, a face mist, a serum, and a face cream."
Note that online retailers are into unclean beauty products. Naked Poppy, where War discovered some of her favorite products, began completing a custom quiz that resulted in a curated list of suitable skincare and makeup. Her top pick? Kosas' Hyaluronic Lip Balm, Kari Gran's Mini Kit, and RMS Beauty's Peach Luminizer started. As for Sekhon, she recommends Credo Beauty shop properly vetted cosmetics brands—favorites among Elia, Kosas, Meow Meow Tweet, and W3ll People.