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Is It Time to Give Up Lipstick for Fertility and Overall Health?

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a blog by Claire, August 21, 2012

This week in the UK's Daily Mail, the headline Can YOUR lipstick give you heart problems? sparked plenty of worry among those of us who put on a slash of color every day.

What sparked the concern? A study out of the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that triclosan — a ubiquitous antibacterial chemical found in hand soaps, lipsticks and other personal care products — slows swimming in fish and reduces muscular strength in mice. In experiments, triclosan impaired the ability of isolated heart muscle cells and skeletal muscle fibers to contract. The researchers said the effects on cardiac function were really dramatic and acted as a cardiac depressant.

Yuk …

But let's say you're not worried about the effects of the chemical on your heart. (I mean it's mice and minnows, right? Let's ignore the fact that the researchers exposed the mice to the same levels of triclosan that people are exposed to on a daily basis.) This same research team has also linked triclosan to disruption of reproductive hormone activity and of cell signaling in the brain.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans; however, it points out that new studies have come out that merit further review. It says:

    Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Triclosan was first developed to combat bacterial infections in hospitals, but its use became widespread with antibacterial soaps and other products, including deodorants, mouthwashes, toothpaste, bedding, clothes, carpets, toys and trash bags. It is also used as a preservative in lipstick.

The good news? Johnson & Johnson, which makes many personal care products such as baby shampoo, acne cream and antiwrinkle lotion, has announced that they will be removing many potentially harmful chemicals — including formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens and triclosan — by the end of 2015. Maybe other companies will do the same.

But what can you do NOW reduce your exposure? Here's a few tips:

  • Stop using antibacterial soaps. Just use plain old soap and water, which is just as effective.
  • Check your household cleaning products for triclosan and only use triclosan=free products.
  • Skip "antibacterial" products, such as shoe inserts and pillowcases.
  • Use organic personal care products such as makeup and lipstick.