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4 Harmful Endocrine Disruptors to Avoid in Beauty Products


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDCs, can be one of the most difficult chemicals to avoid in beauty products. They cleverly elude most ingredient lists by hiding within a product’s packaging or an ingredient itself. So, how can we avoid these harmful chemicals if we can’t find them?

Don’t worry. By the end of this article, you’ll learn how to identify and avoid endocrine-disrupting ingredients and why it’s important to limit our exposure to these harmful hormone-mimicking chemicals.

What are Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)?

According to the UK’s BreastCancer.Org, an endocrine disruptor is any chemical that can interfere with normal hormone functions in humans or animals. While there are naturally occurring types found in plants, such as soy (known as phytoestrogens), most endocrine-disrupting compounds come from synthetic chemicals and can be avoided.

Why Should We Avoid Endocrine Disruptors?

There’s seemingly no end to the adverse health impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Also known as EDCs, these tricky chemicals can imitate hormones and destroy others while creating internal signaling issues which causes premature cell death. Endocrine disruptors have also been proven to accumulate in hormone-producing organs, resulting in organ malfunctions and irreversible damage.

So, how does this hormone disruption manifest itself in humans, exactly?

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Increased Breast Cancer Risks

Once thought to only effect hormone-regulating organs, research now clearly demonstrates that the mechanisms of EDCs are much broader than originally recognized. Of prominence is the growing relationship identified between EDCs and cancers, including in the breast, and common diseases like cardiovascular, pulmonary or neurodegenerative disorders to name a few. [1]

Breast and uterine cancer are the most frequent female-related cancers whose growth is mostly estrogen dependent. Therefore, any EDC exhibiting estrogenic effects may increase the risk of these two malignancies. [2]

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Depression, Autism and Neural Degeneration

Because certain EDCs are able to alter neural transmission and the formation of neural networks, the term neural-disrupting chemicals has been introduced, thus implicating EDCs in the cause of neurological disorders.

Recently, public concern has been focused on the effects of EDCs on brain function with an increase in neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder as well as learning disabilities and aggressiveness. Several lines of evidence suggest that exposure to EDCs is associated with depression and could result in neural degeneration.

How to Avoid Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Cosmetics

As you can see, the detrimental effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals are becoming widely recognized in both the health, wellness and medical communities, now it’s time to transfer that knowledge to the beauty industry.

Here’s where you’ll find potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals lurking in your beauty products and most importantly, how to avoid them.



By far one of the most controversial endocrine-disrupting chemicals is parabens. Commonly used as inexpensive preservatives, these synthetic chemicals are proven to mimic estrogen in the human body and have been found built up in essential hormone regulating organs.

Parabens are chemicals with estrogen-like properties, and estrogen abnormalities are involved in the development of breast cancer. In fact, a 2012 medical study confirmed our suspicions that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can increase risks of breast cancer.

The study found 99% of malignant breast cancer tumors contained 1-5 different types of parabens.[4] 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has even linked methylparabens, in particular, to metabolic, developmental, hormonal, and neurological disorders, as well as various cancers.

Unlike many endocrine-disrupting chemicals, parabens can be found in the product’s ingredient list. Here’s what to look for.

List of Paraben Types to Avoid:

  • Methylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Benzylparaben

Plastic Packaging

When it comes to EDC exposure, our most widespread threat may be plastics. They’re everywhere, wreaking havoc in our oceans, food containers and no doubt sitting on the shelf of your shower.


The problem with plastic packaging is its ability to leach harmful chemicals into the material it contains. Currently, the most widespread concern is the manmade chemical, Bisphenol-A or BPA – a widely recognized endocrine-disrupting chemical and xenoestrogen.

What Are Xenoestrogens?

A xenoestrogen is a hormone-mimicking chemical in humans and animals, specifically the hormone, estrogen.

Not only has BPA been linked to endocrine disruption, but environmental scientists have noted its detrimental effects on our oceans and wildlife. Recall, xenoestrogens and EDCs don’t just affect humans, but the delicate plants and animals comprising our vital ecosystems.


So, just avoid BPA, and you’ll be fine, right? Not necessarily.


This study from Environmental Health Perspectives, uncovered a very telling discovery.

“The testing showed that more than 70 percent of the products released chemicals that acted like estrogen. And that was before they exposed the stuff to real-world conditions: simulated sunlight, dishwashing and microwaving.”

It’s very difficult to avoid all plastics in everyday life, but as conscious beauty professionals, we can start behind the chair by replacing plastic products with amber glass salon products.


Pronounced thal-ates, phthalates are one of those elusive endocrine-disrupting chemicals you won’t see directly spelled out on a cosmetic’s ingredients list. Unlike our other aforementioned compounds, phthalates do not have hormone-mimicking effects on the body. Instead, studies have shown adverse effects on the male reproductive system, including decreased sperm count, testicular cell destruction and thyroid irregularities.

How to Avoid Phthalates:

  • Look for beauty products without synthetic fragrance
    • “Fragrance” or “pafum” could be the most vaguely listed ingredients in existence. Because fragrance is considered “proprietary,” companies are not required to disclose its components. This is where sneaky ingredients, like phthalates, can make unknowingly make their way into your products.
  • Avoid plastic packaging, especially PVC with recycle code #3.


Pesticides in beauty products? You might be thinking, that can’t possibly be a listed ingredient and you’d be correct. While we can all appreciate the rise of more natural beauty products, we should be cognizant of the type of plants used in our cosmetics and how they’re harvested.

Specifically, neurotoxic organophosphate compounds were developed during WWII by Nazis as nerve gas to aggressively attack the human nervous system. This same chemical has been adapted for pesticides to target the nervous system in bugs and pests.

How to Avoid Organophosphates:

  • Purchase professional organic salon products.
    • Specifically, look for the botanical ingredients to be organic (grown without pesticides) or biodynamic-organic (a step above organic).
  • Purchase raw organic fruit and vegetables, if using natural beauty treatments.

While it may be impossible to avoid all endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our beauty products, steering clear of questionable ingredients like Parabens, Phthalates, Plastics, and Pesticides is a big step in limiting our harmful toxin exposure. Even though the beauty industry is highly unregulated, together, we can make informed, conscious decisions to ensure the health, wellness and beauty of ourselves and salon clients.

So the next time you’re tempted to purchase a new product, make sure to look out for these 4 major endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Your health, your clients, and the planet will thank you for it. 🙂

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Holistic Hair Stylist Spotlight: Kat Cline

Kat Cline

As our Holistic Hair Tribe continues to thrive, we can’t but notice some standout stylists! In the spotlight this month is Kat Cline. She’s the co-owner and stylist at Aura Holistic Hair in Mobile, AL. She specializes in hair color, highlights, cuts, and styling, but also men’s grooming and barbering services.

She’s no stranger to educating others on health, beauty and wellness, and has been able to combine her love for all three behind the chair.

Get to know Kat!


Tell us a little about yourself! What brought you to working with a holistic hair line?

Although I haven’t been in the hair industry for very long, I’ve been very involved in the holistic and health/wellness world. I started a food blog The Primordial Table in 2012 that was geared towards ancestral health. In the last several years, I have transformed the blog into mostly recipes and support for those who are hoping to control/maintain/reverse autoimmune conditions.

I have a very large Instagram following, where I also share my dedication towards finding all natural and less toxic cleaning supplies, makeup, skin care, hair care, and so on. To me, holistic wellness is a lifestyle, and I want to incorporate it into all aspects of life including my job and career.


What is one of your favorite looks to create and which products do you use to create them?

My favorite looks right now are the balayaged/ombre styles that are soft and blended. I love the reverse application process – that’s where you take a previously highlighted or blonde client and transition their base into a soft, blended, more low maintenance style.

I’ve been using Oway’s Hnectar color almost exclusively for these looks because the color line is so natural and almost flawless in the blending process. My clients are also loving the shine and silkiness of their hair post-color.

What is your favorite client story?

My favorite client story recently is probably my brother’s story. I don’t regularly cut his hair, but he’s had fine, thinning hair for almost the last decade. He’d tried everything and resigned himself to no hair within the next five years. We’ve talked and argued a lot about different products. I’ve given him samples, and so on.

On my last trip to Tampa to get Oway Certified, I met him for dinner since he lived in the area. We talked and argued about him trying Oway, and he was stubborn that he wasn’t going to try it. But he shared that he was almost out of the usual stuff he had so I bought a bottle of the Micro-stimulating hair bath and left it with my mom to give it to him. When he ran out, he decided to try the Oway since it was “laying around”.

He called two months after my visit to share with amazement that the shampoo was making his hair feel the strongest he’s felt it in years. And he also shared that he was no longer afraid to touch his hair because it used to fall out in his hands when he did.

He also wanted to remedy to go with the hair bath. Sure, this story makes me feel great because my older brother finally admitted I was right for the first time ever, but it’s also a reminder to not give up on a situation just because a client has! There’s always going to be new information or new products, and you never know what might work!


How do you relax after a long day at work?

I’m a huge foodie, and I LOVE to cook so my favorite way to relax after a long day is usually to cook a simple dish or enjoy a delicious meal from one of my batch cook sessions. Enjoying a meal with a glass of wine and a friend are always a bonus.

If you had one wish what would it be?

My one wish is for a more eco and environmentally aware society.

I love being a part of a community like Oway, and others that desire environmentally-friendly, sustainable products, that desire better farming and agriculture practices, that desire fair trade and sustainability, but I wish that more of society as a whole felt the same way. I’m happy with the revolution that is underway, but I can’t wait for it to continue to grow and become a very big thing that will change the world.

What would you like to see change in our industry?

The biggest thing I would love the see change in our industry are higher standards to continue to educate ourselves as hairstylists. I’m fortunate enough to work with coworkers who are always looking for new classes and information, but I know this isn’t always the case.

I think the industry is only as strong as our weakest link, and I would love to see more hairstylists working together to find new ways or better ways to do hair instead of being so competitive. I think the sharing of information is a beautiful thing that not only creates great hairstylists, but also creates happy clients and a world full of beautiful people with great hair.

What sort of trends do you see on the horizon for the beginning of 2017?

As for upcoming trends, I still see the “lived in” looks reigning supreme for most clients. With the 80s and 90s making some comebacks in the fashion world, embracing natural texture or enhancing tousled, bed-head texture for ease of styling seems to be the go to. I think texture, low maintenance, easy styling are going to be the key words for a while.

Hair Stylist Education

Join Kat and other like-minded stylists in our Organic Way Holistic Hair Colorist Group here!

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