A program of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

Health Effect: Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity

About Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity

Some chemicals used in personal care products have been designated developmental or reproductive toxicants by state, national, and international scientific authoritative bodies. Reproductive toxicants are substances or agents that can impair the reproductive capabilities of females and/or males. Developmental toxicants are substances of agents that interfere with the proper growth or development of a fetus or child at any point from conception to puberty. Effects that can be caused by developmental or reproductive toxicants include: genetic defects, infertility, menstrual disorders, impotence, miscarriages, still births, birth defects, low birth weight or premature birth, childhood cancers, and developmental disorders.

What Chemicals in Personal Care Products are linked to this concern?

Acrylates

Acrylates

Acrylates (ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, and methyl methacrylate) are ingredients found in artificial nail products. We are mainly exposed to these chemicals through inhalation or skin contact. Despite evidence of adverse skin, eye, and throat reactions to these chemicals, they continue to be used in nail products.

Benzophenone

Benzophenone & Related Compounds

Benzophenone is used in personal care products such as lip balm and nail polish to protect the products from UV light. Derivatives of benzophenone, such as benzophenone-2 (BP2) and oxybenzone (benzophenone-3 or BP3) are common ingredients in sunscreen. Benzophenone is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT).[1][2] These chemicals are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity.

Butylated Compounds

Butylated Compounds

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are used as preservatives in a variety of personal care products. Both of these chemicals are also used as preservatives in foods. These chemicals are linked to several health concerns including endocrine disruption and organ-system toxicity.

Carcinogens in Cosmetics

Carcinogens in Cosmetics

The laws governing cosmetics and personal care products are so limited that known cancer-causing chemicals, or carcinogens, are legally allowed in personal care products. Some carcinogens, such as formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, are common in personal care products, while others are less common, but still occasionally present.

Ethoxylated Ingredients

Ethoxylated Ingredients

Ethoxylation is the process of reacting ethylene oxide with other chemicals to make them less harsh. Ethoxylation can create small amounts of 1,4-dioxane and leave residual ethylene oxide in the product.

Fragrance

Fragrance

Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but very few name the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” This lack of disclosure prevents consumers from knowing the full list of ingredients in their products.

Lead And Other Heavy Metals

Lead And Other Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron are found in a wide variety of personal care products including lipstick, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner and nail color.

Nanomaterials

Nanomaterials

Insoluble nanoparticles in cosmetic products are essentially used as UV-filters or preservatives.Nanoparticles alter properties of cosmetic products including color, transparency, solubility and chemical reactivity.[4]
It is unclear to what extent insoluble nanoparticles are used in cosmetic products.

Octinoxate

Octinoxate

Octinoxate, also called Octyl methoxycinnamate or (OMC), is a UV filter. It can be absorbed rapidly through skin.

Parabens

Parabens

Parabens are preservatives used in a wide variety of personal care products and foods to prevent the growth of microbes. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be absorbed through skin, blood and the digestive system.[1]

Phthalates

Phthalates

Pronounced THAL-ates, these chemicals, which are linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and cancer, have been banned from cosmetics in the European Union, but still remain prevalent in U.S. products.

Polyacrylamide

Polyacrylamide

Polyacrylamide is used as a stabilizer and binder in lotions and other products. Though it is not a concern in itself, it is made up of repeating molecules of acrylamide, which is a strongly suspected carcinogen and has been linked to mammary tumors.

Preservatives

Preservatives

Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are commonly used preservatives in cosmetic and personal care products.

Retinol and Retinol Compounds

Retinol and Retinol Compounds

Retinol is the chemical name of the essential micronutrient vitamin A which can be harmful to your health when it’s added to cosmetic products in certain forms. Two derivatives – retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate – should be avoided in cosmetics and personal care products while retinol itself should not be used at high doses.

Synthetic Musks

Synthetic Musks

Synthetic musks are chemicals used in personal care product fragrances. They are rarely listed on the label, since fragrance ingredients are often not disclosed.

Toluene

Toluene

Toluene is a toxic chemical used in in nail products and hair dyes. Exposure to toluene can result in temporary effects such as headaches, dizziness and cracked skin, as well as more serious effects such as reproductive damage and respiratory complications.

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