Endocrine Disruptors in Shaving Cream


Mid-July is often a start date for newly graduated alumni. Yesterday, two POB grads began their careers including Jen Brown, one of the authors of today’s post. A perfect subject for men and women heading to work (as well as those heading to the beach), our authors share their findings about endocrine disruptors in shaving cream. This is the third in a series from a small survey of UMass students’ favorite personal care products and the endocrine disruptors found within the top brand in each category. The project was part of the co-listed spring course, Marketing/Biology 597.

Jennifer Brown-5725

The bathroom cabinet can often seem like a minefield of questionable chemicals if you are using mostly conventional brands. This past semester the Protect Our Breasts team joined forces with biology students at UMass Amherst to help us research the EDCs in different personal care products.  My partner, Gianna, and I specifically focused our research on shaving cream to discover what actually was in the product we lather on our skin before shaving.

The most common use for this product is to “protect” your skin when shaving. Granted it does soften your skin and protect it from cuts from a razor, but slathering that shaving cream all over your legs or whatever body part may potentially do the opposite of “protect.” The most popular, conventional shaving creams may actually contain chemicals that affect the natural balance of your body by interrupting the complex messaging system. This messaging system is called the endocrine system, and the messages are sent by hormones, molecules that your body produces specifically to keep its natural balance. Chemicals in some products may mimic these natural hormones, but they may also interrupt its normal functioning.  These are called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).

It is important to remember that EDCs are everywhere and avoiding them completely is impossible. This is partly due to the fact that EDCs do not need to be identified as EDCs on packaging and although their chemical name may be on the ingredient list, they will not be marketed as dangerous (obviously, companies are trying to sell their products). Today, because there is currently no regulation on personal care products, it is up to the consumer to research ingredients and decipher if they are safe or not. And so our journey into researching EDCs in shaving cream began… and we were not too happy with the results.

After discovering the top brands of shaving cream from our on-campus survey, we found multiple dangerous common ingredients across the brands. “Fragrance” was one of these ingredients, and although the common consumer would think that this just means something which smells pleasant, it actually catch-all term companies can use to avoid chemical disclosure. Other common EDC’s in top shaving creams included Tocopheryl Acetate, Methyl Paraben, Poly-Paraben, and Benzophenone-4. If you use a shaving cream that isn’t organic or certified NSF or EcoCert, take a look at the ingredients list and more than likely one of these will be on the list.

Parabens are a family of chemicals that are used typically as a preservative in personal care products. They have been shown to mimic the function of the natural hormone estrogen, and to penetrate human skin when applied topically.

Parabens like Methylparaben and Polyparaben should be avoided if possible because their estrogenic activity may influence your risk of health outcomes like breast cancer, and lowered sperm count. Benzophenone-4 is a chemical that acts as a UV filter, to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Although sun protection is a plus, benzophenone is also thought to disrupt the normal function of your thyroid and may act as a false estrogen, which could cause many negative health outcomes. Tocopheryl Acetate is also linked to affecting the endocrine system, and especially affects breast tissue.

Protect your breasts by choosing safer options. Check the EWG’s Skin Deep database for reviews of various shaving creams and chose to protect yourself from more than just an accidental cut from your razor!




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