Infertility Issues? Your Make Up Could be to Blame?

Infertility Issues? Your Make Up Could be to Blame?

Your make up has a group of chemicals Phthalates (pronounced THAL-lates) It has been known for a long time that phthalates alter the hormones in the body. They are recognized as a reproductive toxin in the EU and as an endocrine disruptor by the FDA. A leading researcher, Dr. Shanna Swan, says pregnant women are the most critical targets for phthalates. They have been detected in 95% of pregnant women in the U.S. (2) The scary part is women with higher levels of phthalates are less likely to get pregnant and more likely to miscarry.   

Phthalates are found in several personal care products including soaps, shampoos, nail polish, fragrances, hairsprays, and makeup as well as detergents, cleaning products, shower curtains and children’s toys.

Actual measurements, called “body burden surveys,” of contaminants in people show that average Americans have hundreds of manmade chemicals in their tissues (including amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood) at levels high enough to be of concern. (3,4)

These chemicals often contribute to infertility and many pass through the placenta to the baby and contribute to developmental issues.

Chemical toxins, even at low levels, interfere with hormones and the way they signal genes to turn on and off. Genes being turned on or off at the wrong time can cause a cascade of ill effects in the body. See my Blog on Epigenetics

Here is a summary of a few studies taken from It Starts with the Egg. (1)

  • Many studies point to phthalates being harmful to egg quality and lowering fertility rates.
  • There have been studies that show that even at very low levels phthalates damage sperm in various ways.
  • Studies indicate that phthalates interfere with genes that impact cell division and the ability of eggs to mature properly.
  • When animal eggs and embryos are exposed to phthalates in the laboratory fewer survive to the blastocyst stage, 5 days after fertilization. 
  • Women with higher levels of phthalates before they were pregnant were more likely to have a miscarriage.
  • The issues with phthalates extend past getting pregnant.
  • Women who delivered prematurely have been found to have higher phthalate levels.
  • Women with higher levels of phthalates in pregnancy were more likely to have boys with issues with their reproductive systems.
  • Many research groups have found links between exposure to phthalates during pregnancy and altered brain development and behavior in babies.
  • Children whose mothers had higher levels of phthalates in their systems while pregnant had significantly lower measures of mental, motor, and behavior development.

That is a lot of consequences for a few chemicals. The problem is they are not a few chemicals. We are surrounded by them, especially in the products we use every day on our skin. Our cosmetics and personal care products are high in phthalates.

The first step in lowering phthalate exposure should be the bathroom. Phthalates that are absorbed by your skin are more potent than those inhaled or eaten because they go straight to your tissues instead of through the liver. So how do I protect myself from Phthalates?

  • Anything with a fragrance is likely to have phthalates in it, so replace your perfume with essential oils or go without.
  • Nail polish has one of the highest levels. Nail polish also may contain formaldehyde which exposure to is linked to twice the chance of miscarriage. Some nail polish is labeled ‘three free,’ claiming to have removed formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalate DBP, but a study of these products still found high levels of them in the products.
  • Another area to consider is switching your vinyl shower curtain to one of nylon or cotton.
  • Believe it or not, your yoga mat is another source of phthalates. Consider switching to a PVC free one. Gaiam is a brand that makes these. You can see them here: Gaiam Yoga Mat. 
  • If you want to find how many toxins a product has check out the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.  This is a site where you can look up individulae products to see how many toxins they have in them. The link is:

Companies That Carry Natural products

  • Honey Bee Garden
  • The Honest Company
  • Aussan Natural
  • Method
  • Avalon Organics
  • Neutrogena Naturals
  • Dennis Gross
  • Alterna
  • La Vanilla Healthy Baby
  • California Baby

To detox from phthalates already in your body you need cruciferous vegetables which contain phyto-nutrients that enhance the livers ability to detoxify. This include

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collard Greens
  • Daikon Radish
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Land Cress
  • Mustard Greens
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Shepherd’s Purse
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

If you don’t love cruciferous vegetables you can get phytonutrients in a supplement. I like Standard Process Cruciferous Complete which you can get here: Cruciferous Complete.  Another way to detox phthalates is the supplement DIM which is derived from cruciferous vegetables. DIM is primarily known to increase the enzymatic activity in the liver and can be very powerful at lowering xeno estrogens in the body. DIM is well tolerated in the 200-400mg/day range when split into two doses. (6) You can get DIM here: DIM Designs for Health

Don’t feel overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time. When you run out of an old make up or other personal care product have ready a more natural product to take its place. Just because one natural product does not work for you, don’t give up. There are lots of options out there for those of us who want to live healthier lives. Remember, small steps might be the answer to you getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.


1. It Starts with the Egg by Rebecca Fett

2.  Dr. Shanna Swan says pregnant women are the most critical targets for phthalate


4. Environmental Working Group, 2003. Body Burden: The Pollution in People. Online at reports/bodyburden/

5. Physicians for Social Responsibility, January 2003. Bearing the Burden: Health Implications of Environmental Pollutants in Our Bodies. Online at Physicians for Social Responsibility, January 2003. Bearing the Burden: Health Implications of Environmental Pollutants in Our Bodies. Online at


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