How Much do Toxins Affect our Fertility?

Eloise Edington  |   11 Jun 2021

It’s a controversial topic we have spoken about before on our Fertility Help Hub Podcast, with Dr Corina Dunlop, a licensed Naturopathic Physician and Medical Researcher. It’s true that harsh chemicals and ingredients can have a negative impact on fertility, whether you are pregnant, on your IVF journey, or trying to conceive naturally. So, when it comes to fertility-friendly cosmetics, it is best to shop natural and toxin free. Fertility Help Hub have made it easier to go chemical and toxin free with your beauty products, with this blog of ingredients to avoid, how they can affect fertility, and where to start shopping for cleaner make-up.

The smallest change by reducing toxins may make all the difference, so check it out!

Words by Katherine Compton

Why are Toxins Bad News for Fertility?

Certain chemicals used in beauty cosmetics are toxic and can have an effect on your hormones. These chemicals are called ‘endocrine disruptors’. Essentially, these chemicals affect the glands that produce hormones and can cause harmful effects on development, reproduction, the brain and the immune system. If pregnant, this can cause hormonal issues for your baby if exposed to a large amount of these toxins and it can even cause issues for future pregnancies while trying to conceive (TTC).

Chemicals that can Affect Male Fertility

For men who wear make-up, the same rules apply – stick to the never-use list (see below).

Make sure to look on the label for chemicals in skin and haircare products, such as dyes, hair gels, lotions, shampoos and deodorants etc. The presence of parabens and phthalates can negatively affect sperm. This can be a short-term, reversible issue (as sperm is renewed every three months), so being conscious of toxic ingredients you’re putting into your body can be beneficial when looking to improve male fertility and sperm health. Swapping out the old products for the new can greatly benefit your fertility.

Related Article – Why it’s Time to Swap Your Multivitamin for a Men’s Prenatal

Metals Linked to Infertility

There are also a lot of metals found in certain products, such as mercury and lead in mascara and eye liners. These can lead to health complications and fertility issues if regularly ingested. Even products advertised for your child can be harmful, such as talc, which can cause various infections, respiratory issues and has also been proven to be a factor in some cases of cancer.

Related Article – Fertility, Wellness and Beauty Discounts to Rock Your New Year

Which Chemicals Affect Fertility?

The following is an essential ‘beware’ list, detailing what toxins and chemicals may affect fertility, what products they are most commonly found in, as well as the potential health risks associated with regular or high-level consumption of these ingredients. Most make-up brands that are ethical and toxin free will usually include a ‘never-use’ or ‘sometimes-use’ list.

Reputable brands which do contain these chemicals will do so at levels which are considered to be unlikely to cause harm and the product list is so wide that it is difficult to eliminate their use totally, but you should be aware of the possible cumulative effect of exposure and may choose to investigate further or to look for brands which are fertility friendly. 

Before committing to any brand that claims to have fertility friendly cosmetics, it is always useful to read through those lists to double check if all or only some ingredients are safe. 

  • Found in creams and other products: parabens, these include propyl, butyl, isopropyl, isobutyl and methyl parabens. These are carcinogenic, and can cause skin allergies and hormone imbalances, primarily in the reproductive and nervous system.
  • Found in mascara and eye drops: mercury. Possible side effects are infertility, birth defects and miscarriage.
  • Found in talcum powder, make-up and baby products: talc. Talc can contain a large amount of metals and fibres that can cause respiratory issues for infants, ovarian cancer and urinary tract disorders.
  • Found in deodorant, mouth wash, antibacterial products, soaps and toothpastes: triclosan. This can cause issues with the immune system and thyroid which are established risks for infertility.
  • Found in nail varnish, fragrance and hair products: phthalates, diethyl and dibutyl. These can cause birth defects, early puberty for girls, sperm damage (as well as other reproductive issues for men) and infertility.
  • Found in various beauty products, including some eyeliners and magnetic eyelash glue/liners: lead.
  • Found in deodorant: aluminium chloride hexahydrate and aluminium chlorohydrate. Can increase risk of breast cancer.
  • Found in various cosmetic products: Beta hydroxy acids, Salicylic acid, 3-hydroxypropionic acid, trethocanic acid and tropic acid.
  • Found in chemical suncreams: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, menthyl anthranilate and oxtocrylene.
  • Found in hair and body products: diethanolamine (DEA), oleamide DEA, lauramide DEA and cocamide DEA, monoethanolamine (MEA), and triethanolamine (TEA). This can cause nerve and kidney damage and may cause cancer.
  • Found in aerosol self tanner: dihydroxyacetone (DHA)
  • Found in almost all make-up products: formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers: quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM), hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol). These are carcinogenic and can cause respiratory system issues, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, and a weakened immune system.
  • Found in various cosmetic products: retinol, Vitamin A, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene and isotretinoin. Although there is no direct evidence yet to suggest that topical retinoids and retinols can cause direct harm to reproductive health, or reduce the success of fertility treatments, they have been implicated along with parabens and phthalates.

Fertility-Friendly Beauty Products and Brands

  • It can be hard to find fertility-friendly beauty products that are safe to use as so many chemicals are widely accepted in the beauty industry. To make things easier for you, we have made a list of fertility-friendly beauty products and brands that are toxin and chemical free, using natural or organic ingredients. We have also scored some generous discount offers for you on some of the listed beauty brands.
  • Ilia – this natural, organic beauty brand is vegan, gluten and talc free, meaning that most of their products are fertility friendly.
  • Kosas – uses ethically sourced ingredients and most products are safe to use for fertility and pregnancy. They are organic, gluten and fragrance free, non-nano and vegan. Double-check their ‘never-use’ list in the ethics section of their website.
  • W3ll People – They specialise in green beauty that is toxin, gluten and cruelty free.
  • Naked Poppy – is a clean cosmetic store that tailors products to your needs based on an initial quiz you take before shopping. Naked Poppy make-up is ethically produced with fair labor practices, cruelty free and has rigorously tested ingredients.
  • Kari Gran – is sustainable, organic, uses clean ingredients, is cruelty free and women-owned and operated.
  • RMS Beauty – uses clean make-up and ingredients that have healthy benefits such as jojoba oil, Vitamin E and coconut oil etc.
  • Credo Beauty – is one of the largest clean beauty stores that uses certified, ethical and clean make-up.
  • Beautycounter – Uses fertility-safe cosmetics and ensures that they are free from toxins. They have a ‘never-use’ list to check out.
  • Honest – Has a range of safe and clean make-up, skincare, cleaning products, baby items and pregnancy cosmetics.
  • Juice Beauty – offers skin, hair and make-up products that are pregnancy and fertility safe. They support organic farming to produce ingredients with high antioxidant levels which can be beneficial to fertility.
  • Drunk Elephant – fertility friendly, except for two brands (Babyfacial and A-Passioni). They only use ingredients that benefit the skin and they avoid obvious toxins that they refer to as the “suspicious 6″, listed on their website.
  • Andalou Naturals – They are ethical, gluten and cruelty free and have a wide range of vegan products.
  • Burt’s Bees – uses responsibly sourced, natural ingredients that are cruelty free and recyclable with Terracycle. On average, their products are 99% natural with over half of the products being 100% natural, making them safe for fertility.
  • Carols Daughter – uses natural ingredients and does not test on animals, nor do any of the products contain animal derivatives.
  • Dr Bronner’s – makes plastic and toxin free, biodegradable and organic cosmetics.
  • Fine Healing Goods – makes all natural CBD creams and more. For 15% off, use code, ‘FERTILITYHELP’ at checkout.
  • Honeypie Minerals – is 100% natural, vegan friendly, fragrance and toxin free. They have a range of beauty cosmetics including eyeshadows, colour correctors, foundations and brushes. For 15% off use code ‘FHHUB15’ at checkout.
  • Organyc Sanitary & Beauty Products – uses 100% certified, organic cotton, bioplastics, sugar plastics and FSC paper for ear buds, sanitary towels, and other disposable sanitary items. For 10% off use code ‘FERTILITY10’ at checkout.
  • Primally Pure – uses natural ingredients to create non-toxic beauty products that are hand crafted and cruelty free. For 10% off, use code ‘FHH10’ at checkout.

While most of the products sold by these brands are safe to use, we advise that you double check the labels for any of the above-mentioned ‘beware’ ingredients. Most brands will have their own list on their website which you can use for comparison against our fertility-specific list. Alternatively, you can download the app mentioned at the end of this article to certify products for safe use.

Related Article – Pomegranate & Fertility – Can Pomegranate Boost Fertility?

ThinkDirty, Clean Make-Up App

The ThinkDirty but Shop Clean app eliminates the lengthy process of skimming through all the ingredients in every make-up product you are interested in. It does all the legwork for you! Simply scan the item you are interested in and it will tell you if there are any bad or harmful ingredients and what they are. They also offer monthly subscription (or one time purchase) beauty boxes filled with clean make-up, hygiene, skincare and wellbeing products. 

This app is suitable for those who are trying to conceive, on their IVF journey or pregnant. The creator was conscious of the cancerous chemicals in make-up, and so with the identification of those toxic chemicals, not only is your general health protected but so is your reproductive health. Cancer treatment can be detrimental to fertility health, and is responsible for sterility in men.

However, this app is not just for chemicals relating to cancer – it covers a wide range of toxic chemicals and ingredients. This means that, so long as this app certifies the product you have scanned, it is safe to use for fertility health and protection.

Related Article – Tips for Self-Care and Managing Your Relationship During IVF by HSFC

Harmful beauty products can affect everyone (and they can affect male fertility too). So, if you are TTC naturally or are currently on your IVF journey, now is the time to swap the chemical products for the natural ones.

Related Article – Turmeric for Fertility – Could this be a Fertility Super Spice?

If you would like to find more fertility friendly cosmetics that are certified for safe use, visit the FHH Shop, where you will find discounts on various beauty products and beauty stores.

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