The Fashion Spot Momtastic

Your Beauty Routine Can Affect Your Fertility

Just because something is sold on a shelf, doesn't mean it's safe.

We're not going to sugarcoat it or bury the lead given the importance of this topic. Studies have shown that certain ingredients in hair, skin and makeup products can impact your fertility. So you really need to take a look at what is in the products you're using. Or at the very least consult with an app, like Think Dirty, that does the digging for you.

Image via Prakasit Kitilapo / EyeEm/Getty Images

"An important class of chemical to be aware of are known as endocrine disruptors, which can affect your hormone levels by mimicking or blocking endocrine actions in the body and, as a result, impact your fertility," says Claire O'Neill, certified andrology and embryology lab scientist and co-founder of FertilitySpace. "Beauty/skin care products can also impact male fertility as endocrine disruptors can affect hormones in men that may alter sperm production and quality."

So what chemicals should you be looking out for?

There is quite a bit of research that has shown phthalates affect both female and male fertility. "Phthalates can be found in a variety of beauty products, such as lotions, cosmetics and perfumes," shares O'Neill. She highlights a phthalate called DEHP metabolites, which has been associated with preterm birth and intrauterine growth restriction. "In women undergoing IVF, studies have shown that increased DEHP levels led to a reduction in the number of eggs retrieved, decreased probability of pregnancy and live birth as well as increased pregnancy loss."

And it's not only women that are impacted. Phthalates have also been shown to affect men as well with levels of the phthalate DEP showing a reduction in sperm quality. Another study found that the phthalate DBP and its metabolites were significantly higher among infertile men compared to fertile men, according to O'Neill.

It's also worthwhile to check ingredient lists to see whether they contain phthalates like Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate. Or just look for products that are phthalate-free.

Chemical-based sunscreens may also affect male fertility. "Some of the active ingredients in sunscreens that block UV rays, like oxybenzone, may affect sperm quality by disrupting hormone levels and possibly weakening sperm," says Lisa Richards, MSN, CNM and health coach at Ovia Health, a pregnancy, fertility and parenting app. "The safest sunscreens to use may be mineral-based sunscreens that use zinc or titanium dioxide instead of chemicals like oxybenzone."

Another common ingredient to avoid is retinol. "The reason is retinoids and retinol are converted to retinoic acid in your body. Retinoic acid is very important in early embryo development so it is usually recommended to avoid using retinoids during pregnancy to mitigate the risk of this affecting the baby's development," advises O'Neill.

Parabens, used as preservatives to make products last longer, are also no-nos. "They can disrupt estrogen pathways and they're commonly found in makeup, skin lotions, shampoos and more and may also appear as part of a larger word on ingredient lists, like methylparaben," says Richards. "Plus, I would caution against triclosan, which is an antimicrobial agent found in liquid hand soaps or body wash and in some toothpastes."

While it's never too early, or too late, to make a change, it's important to note that sperm or egg quality won't change overnight. "The sperm production cycle takes about 74 days for example so you need to start making changes now to see a benefit months later," explains O'Neill.


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