Chemicals in shampoo, deodorant and make-up linked to early puberty in girls

Girls may be experiencing puberty earlier after exposure to chemicals found in make-up, shampoo, perfumes, deodorants and more a new study has suggested. [Photo: Getty]
Girls may be experiencing puberty earlier after exposure to chemicals found in make-up, shampoo, perfumes, deodorants and more a new study has suggested. [Photo: Getty]

The use of common household items and beauty products such as deodorants, shampoo, soap and make-up could kick-start puberty in young girls.

A number of chemicals found in personal care products – including phthalates, parabens and phenol – were responsible for the early-onset puberty, found a study published in Human Reproduction.

Parabens are used as a preservative in products including make-up, toothpaste, body lotions and shampoo, while phenols are also used as a preservative in lipsticks, hairsprays and soap.

Meanwhile phthalates are used in scented products including deodorants and body spray.

Dr. Kim Harley, associate professor in public health at the University of California, who was lead author of the study, says: “We found evidence that some chemicals widely used in personal care products are associated with earlier puberty in girls.”

Early puberty is linked with both mothers using the chemicals during pregnancy and girls using them personally before the age of nine, Dr. Harley explains.

“Specifically, we found that mothers who had higher levels of two chemicals in their bodies during pregnancy – diethyl phthalate, which is used in fragrance, and triclosan [a type of phenol], which is an antibacterial agent in certain soaps and toothpaste – had daughters who entered puberty earlier.

“We also found that girls with higher levels of parabens in their bodies at the age of nine entered puberty earlier.”

What is early puberty?

Early puberty, also known as precocious puberty, is defined as signs before the age of eight, according to the NHS – these can include developing breasts and starting periods. The average age for girls to start their puberty is 11.

Starting before the age of eight can cause problems for young girls, explains Dr. Harley, who says: “Earlier puberty in girls increases their risk of mental health problems and risk-taking behaviour as teenagers and increases their risk of breast and ovarian cancer over the long-term, so this is an important issue to address.”

Where can you find products free from phthalates, parabens and phenols?

Green People provides a wide range of 100% paraben-free organic beauty buys, while Neal’s Yard Remedies avoids using parabens, triclosan or phthalates in products.

Cult Beauty list a number of paraben-free skincare and make-up essentials on their website.

You can also find a range of free-from products on the Holland & Barrett website, and the Superdrug website.

To see a defined list of vegan products available in the UK, click on the image below:

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