Are Your Men’s Skincare or Grooming Products Shrinking Your Manhood?
Your daily skincare routine helps you stay clean, handsome, and confident. The products you use should improve your life and contribute to your well being.
But there's potential for very negative side effects when it comes to some ingredients. Studies show that your men’s skincare and grooming products may contain toxins that could lower your testosterone or lower your sperm count.
Does that seem like an outrageous claim? There's significant evidence that supports a connection between some common ingredients and reproductive side effects - especially phthalates.
What Are Phthalates?
Phthalates are a group of man made chemicals used to make plastic more flexible and harder to break. Although these ingredients are categorized as plasticizers, they're often found in grooming and skincare products as well.
Long chain phthalates are most commonly used in PVC and other products made from plastics. Short chain phthalates are the ones that are sometimes found in skincare and cosmetic products - though they're also used to make paints and adhesives.
Why Are Phthalates in Skincare Products?
Manufacturers have found a few ways to utilize phthalates in cosmetic, skincare, and grooming products. Their utility is mainly related to their plasticizing properties.
Phthalates are used in some nail polish formulas so that it doesn't become brittle. This gives it both flexibility and strength, allowing the polish to last longer without cracking. The most common one is dibutyl phthalate (DBP), though some companies have slowly phased out its use as consumers have become more aware of its potential harm.
Some phthalates serve as solvents for dyes in a variety of products.
One of the most common uses of phthalates in skincare and grooming products is as a part of the vague ingredient "fragrance" - usually diethyl phthalate specifically. Here, its purpose is to make scents linger and last longer.
The tricky detail is that you may have no way of identifying phthalates in these products since "fragrance" is a catchall ingredient term and the phthalate itself might not have to be listed at all.
What Are the Risks of Phthalates?
Phthalates are known endocrine disrupters and affect the glands responsible for your hormone levels. According to various studies, phthalates have been known to lower normal testosterone levels and male growth hormones, warp genital development, lower sperm counts, reduce sperm motility, and damage sperm.
Slower Moving, Lower Quality Sperm
A 2015 study in Sweden looked at how phthalate exposure affects the reproductive health of young men. There is already evidence that "in animals, exposure to certain phthalates negatively affects the male reproductive function." But this study of 314 young men also concluded that higher levels of phthalate metabolites in urine "seemed negatively associated with sperm motility and maturation."
In 2014, an NIH study found that at least three common phthalates that are used widely in cosmetics and skincare products were linked to delayed pregnancy in couples. The first author stated, "Our study shows that exposure to certain phthalates can reduce the chance of conception for otherwise healthy couples." And since most people have been exposed to these chemicals, it could be an extremely widespread issue.
While most studies linked to toxins in grooming products are done on mice, quite a few of these studies have been done on humans. According to researchers, men’s testosterone levels have been declining for over 20 years. This can't be absolutely or solely linked to phthalates, but it's possible that common endocrine disrupting ingredients such as phthalates have helped contribute to the issue.
Why Are These Ingredients Allowed?
How can a chemical like this end up in a men’s skin care or men’s grooming product? The US is not very strict when it comes to skincare ingredients. It took until 2015 for Congress to ban certain phthalates even from just children’s toys.
There are very few laws in the US about what you can or cannot put in a skincare product. Almost 90% of the over 11,000 grooming and skin care ingredients known to the FDA have never been evaluated for safety, while over 1,100 of those ingredients have been banned for use in the European Union.
How to Avoid Phthalates in Your Skincare Products
Your skin absorbs anywhere from 64% to 100% of anything you put on it due to its porous nature. This means that if any of the skincare or grooming products you use have toxic chemicals, they are being directly ingested into your body from your skin.
How do you prevent yourself from using a men’s skincare or grooming product loaded with toxins?
Choose Natural Products from Reputable Brands
Use natural men’s skincare and grooming products from brands that focus on clean formulas. While natural is a relative word, you can do research on the brand and the specific ingredients in the product you’re about to buy.
Keep in mind that not all preservatives are necessarily harmful. This type of ingredient is necessary to keep a product stable and free from contaminants for longer than a few days after opening. The issue isn't preservatives entirely, but rather the specific ones being used.
When it comes to identifying potentially problematic skincare products, beware of brands that don't full disclose their ingredients. However, a brand that commits to never including harmful ingredients - such as phthalates - in their products is a good sign.
We Never Use Phthalates
At Brickell, we're committed to never using phthalates in our skincare and grooming products. Instead, we rely on safe, natural ingredients that preserve our washes, moisturizers, anti-aging creams, and serums without putting your long term health at risk.