There was another recall of aerosolized products recently. We’ve already seen recalls for aerosol body sprays, deodorants, and sunscreens in the past year and this time it’s dry shampoo sprays. In this recent product recall, aerosol propellants were contaminated with relatively dangerous levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. I consider these a wake-up call to re-evaluate our specific hygiene products, especially when TTC or when pregnant. Of course, not all products are at risk of containing benzene, but we know there are many other detrimental chemicals that we’re exposed to in our everyday hair and body products including phthalates, parabens, BHT, phenoxyethanol, and other chemicals hidden under the designation “fragrance.” High exposure to these can interfere with the function of our hormones (they can bind to our estrogen and testosterone receptors and contribute to fertility issues), and be irritating to our bodies. Many of these, including phthalates, have a relatively short half-life, and our bodies can get rid of them through sweat, urine and feces, but consider this:

Think about how often you use these products, and to what degree they come into contact with your body or enter your body.

  • Are you using sprays in a small bathroom and inhaling them as you use them?
  • Are you spreading them all over your scalp and skin?
  • Do you ever bring your coffee or a glass of water into the bathroom while you’re getting ready and have airborne particles from your products potentially drift onto/into those beverages?
  • Are you using perfumes or colognes, spraying them either directly onto your skin or misting them into the air and walking into them while not paying attention to the fact that you’re breathing them in?
  • Do you wear and reapply makeup all day? Or use hair gels, sprays or other products that cling to your hair (that you could be breathing since they’re in close proximity to your nose – even if you can’t detect the scent)?
  • Ever soak in a tub with a bubble bath or bath bombs? Even when you shower, most of us are in a small space, confined by walls and/or plastic curtains, with hot water and steam as we lather and slather our bodies with different washes and soaps. You’re breathing it in, you’re putting it on your skin.

Once you start paying attention, the amount of exposure you have may surprise you. The problem with scents is that you get used to them after a while and don’t notice them when they’ve been on your body or hair all day.

What hair and skin products are safe to use?

There are a few “filters” I personally use when buying hair and body products. I’ll try to search for products that are vegan, phthalate-free, “natural,” paraben-free, free of petroleum products, and those that contain organic ingredients. This isn’t going to filter out all toxin-containing products, but it helps narrow down conscious companies. Choosing “fragrance-free” is also a good option, but there are plenty of safe products out there that use natural essential oils and plant extracts for scent.

Use databases for some extra help. You can use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep website to search for different types of products or check out the safety rating on a particular product. Similarly, there are apps out there like Yuka where you can scan a product’s barcode to have its ingredients assessed for safety. I always read the fine print on these assessments for the most informed decision. I.e. Just because something has a “yellow light” warning, its health risk may depend on how the product is used or which areas of the body you’re using them.

Avoid aerosolized sprays. There have been too many recalls recently across the board. It’s enough. In my opinion, we’ve come to the point where we need to expect more from companies that make hygiene and beauty products in North America. European Union regulations are way ahead of us, having banned over 1400 substances, many of which can interfere with fertility, while companies here are profiting off of cheaper and riskier formulations as US regulations have only banned less than a dozen of these chemicals. Now consider that these chemicals are getting into our water supply and affecting the environment. That same water supply may be used to feed the crops that supply our food chain and potentially poison other species. Each time you make a purchase, you’re casting a vote. Let’s support the companies that have our health in mind, while also benefiting our fertility and overall health.

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