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Janet Gray, Ph.D.
Janet Gray, Ph.D.

As author of our 2008 and 2010 State of the Evidence reports, Dr. Gray drives the science behind all our work.

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Hormones in Personal Care Products

CATEGORY*: IARC known carcinogen, NTP known carcinogen

FOUND IN: Cosmetics

THE GIST: Women of color, beware: hormones and chemicals linked to breast cancer are often included in hair care products, such as hair relaxers and hair dyes marketed to you. These products might contribute to an increased incidence of breast cancer. Hormones, especially estrogens, are also regularly added to anti-aging creams because of their effectiveness in raising collagen count and increasing skin hydration.

State of the Evidence on Hormones in Personal Care Products

Placental extracts, probably with high concentrations of the hormone progesterone (Rudel, 2007) and estrogenic chemicals (Tiwary, 1998), are sometimes used in cosmetics and hair care products, particularly products marketed to women of color.

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Use fewer products with simpler ingredients, avoid fragrance, use truly natural ingredients and read the label.

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Addition of hormones and extracts is advertised to promote growth and thickness of hair. However, research indicates that use of these products in infants and children may also be linked to precocious puberty or early sexual maturation (Li, 2002; Tiwary, 1998, 2003), a risk factor for later life breast cancer (Hsieh, 1990). Scientists have proposed that use of these hormone-altered products might be contributing to the increased incidence of breast cancer, especially among young African American women (Donovan, 2007).

Hormones, especially estrogens, are also regularly added to anti-aging creams (Olson, 2009), because of their effectiveness in raising collagen count and increasing skin hydration. Together, these two factors are thought to decrease wrinkling of the skin (Draelos, 2005), but use of the creams can also increase women’s total lifetime exposure to estrogen.

*For chemicals that have been shown to be carcinogens, we provide classifications from two authoritative bodies: the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, an international body) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). We have categorized endocrine-disrupting compounds where the body of peer-reviewed research indicates a strong foundation for doing so.