The body is bombarded daily with endocrine disruptors from pollution, tap water, plastics, and even skin care. It’s hard to completely avoid them, and some are worse than others. In this episode of The Rogue Pharmacist with Ben Fuchs, we discuss the ingredients to watch out for and what to know about endocrine disruptors in your beauty products.
Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) presents The Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R.Ph. This podcast takes an enlightening approach to supporting licensed estheticians in their pursuit to achieve results-driven skin care treatments for their clients. You can always count on us to share professional skin care education, innovative techniques, and the latest in skin science.
Benjamin Knight Fuchs is a registered pharmacist, nutritionist, and skin care chemist with 35 years of experience developing pharmacy-potent skin health products for estheticians, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons. Ben’s expert advice gives licensed estheticians the education and skin science to better support the skin care services performed in the treatment room while sharing insights to enhance clients’ at-home skin care routines.
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0:00:00.1 Benjamin Fuchs: Calling all forward-thinking estheticians. It's time to redefine the art of skincare and embrace a revolutionary approach that begins with your client's skin cell health. I'm pharmacist Benjamin Knight Fuchs welcoming you to Truth Treatment Systems where beauty begins at the cell. We believe you're not just a beauty professional, you are a healthcare professional. You want to make a positive difference and you want to make a good living and we will help you do both. We're here to support your out-of-the-box thinking and empower you to question traditional products, outdated formulations, and old-school ingredients.
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0:02:04.4 Maggie Stasik: Hello and welcome to ASCP and The Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs. In each episode, we'll explore how internal and external factors can impact the skin. I'm Maggie Stasik, ASCP's Education Program Manager, and joining me is Ben Fuchs, skincare formulator and pharmacist. Hi, Ben.
0:02:21.9 BF: Hi, Maggie.
0:02:22.0 MS: We're talking about endocrine disruption from exposure to chemicals in our skincare, and this is nothing new. We hear about this a lot, or at least I do, maybe because I'm in the industry. So to start, what do we mean by endocrine disruption?
0:02:35.6 BF: To start, what do we mean by endocrine?
0:02:39.1 MS: Yeah, good point.
0:02:39.2 BF: Right. So first of all, you have to know what endocrine is, so know why disruption is a problem. So the endocrine system is colloquially the hormone system. Specifically, it's the hormones that go through the blood. Endo means inside, crin means secretions. Now you also have the exocrine system. You also have paracrine chemicals and you also have autocrine chemicals. So the crins are various secretions that come out of cells that are involved in how cells behave. When you think about it, you have 100 trillion cells.
0:03:07.9 BF: I mean, that should just blow people away. 100 trillion cells make up our bodies. I mean, we look at each other and we see a person, but if you zoom in, there's 100 trillion cells somehow that are coordinated and regulated and communicating to each other. How do they do that? How do cells know what to do? Well, they do, they communicate with each other through molecules that are secreted out of cells in one area and travel to another area that basically tell the cells what to do. They're said to be signaling molecules. Now the paracrine system are chemicals that are secreted from a cell that communicate to cells in the area. Autocrine chemicals are secreted from a cell and communicate back to the cell that secreted it. Auto means automatic or self.
0:03:55.4 BF: So you have autocrine, you have paracrine. Exocrine signals or exocrine chemicals are secreted into ducts. Sebum is an example of an exocrine fluid. You may have heard of something called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. That's getting a lot of press these days, EPI. And that's related to secretions from the pancreas, exocrine secretions from the pancreas. But most of the time we think about hormones, we think about the endocrine system. And those are hormones that go from one part of the body and travel through the blood to another part of the body. And those are called endocrine hormones. And the most famous ones are the steroid hormones. So when we talk about endocrine disruption, typically we're talking about something from the outside, a chemical that you could put... That you eat or a chemical that you interact with topically that interferes with the steroid hormones, specifically estrogen and to a certain extent testosterone. So generally speaking, when people talk about endocrine disruption, they're talking about disrupting estrogen, sometimes testosterone.
0:04:53.6 BF: So what we call endocrine disruption mostly is estrogen disruption. Now, estrogen is a very, very powerful hormone. It is the most powerful of the steroid hormones. When I was compounding estrogen products in the pharmacy, I'd have to be so careful if I was off by a milligram, I could cause problems, side effects or toxicity in a patient. So you have to be super, super careful with estrogen. And estrogen is cleared out of the body very quickly because it's so powerful. It's detoxified and eliminated. These days, we've got problems with chemicals that act like estrogen because it turns out the chemical structure of estrogen is a very generic chemical structure. It's found throughout nature. And it's also found in a lot of synthetic chemicals. And a lot of these synthetic chemicals that mimic estrogen, that have a chemical structure like estrogen, are found in... Commonly found in skincare products.
0:05:46.6 BF: What they call endocrine disruptors are really, for the most part, estrogen disruptors. And they throw off the estrogen system of the body's estrogen system. And most of the time, they act like estrogen. Acting like estrogen is a big problem because estrogen is such a powerful hormone. Remember, it's eliminated quickly out of the body. And now we're putting it on top of the body. Or sometimes we take it orally. We take drugs, for example, that act like estrogen, birth control pills, classically. So now, you've got this very powerful chemical that the body has evolved to eliminate quickly. And you're putting it on the body or in the body in larger quantity, much larger quantities than the body can handle. And this can have an pro-estrogen effects. Estrogen makes things grow. What's estrogen's main role in the body? To grow a baby. So it makes cells divine. Estrogen is associated with cancer. Estrogen is associated with inflammation. Do you know most chronic degenerative diseases affect women? Hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases.
0:06:45.2 BF: These are female issues. Depression, Alzheimer's disease, neurological issues of all kinds mostly affect women. So why would a disease mostly affect women? Estrogen. Estrogen is very inflammatory. It makes things happen. It's a very powerful activating hormone. So that's why the body has to eliminate it. But now we're putting it on top of our skin or we're ingesting it. So endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause problems with infertility, problems with the immune system, problems with inflammation, problems with reproduction, problems with infertility, problems with menstrual cycles, cancer. All kinds of havoc can be wreaked in the body by putting excess estrogen on or in it. So this is the problem with endocrine disruptors. Because estrogen is a generic molecule and it's found in nature, a lot of chemicals have this kind of estrogen effect. And in skincare, it's really a problem, especially with things like preservatives, which tend to have estrogen-like effects. Many of the preservatives, particularly the parabens, have estrogen-like effects.
0:07:45.8 BF: So when you think about endocrine disruptors, parabens are a classic example of an endocrine/estrogen disruptor. Also, a lot of fragrances and perfumes have endocrine disrupting effects act like estrogen. Remember, endocrine/estrogen effects. The chemical structure of fragrances is similar to estrogen and can activate the estrogen receptor. One of my pet peeves in skincare, and I get a lot of heat from this whenever I talk about it, is sunscreens. And I've been saying for years that sunscreens are a huge problem, largely because they're endocrine disruptors, endocrine/estrogen disruptors. Yet in our culture, it's almost like a taboo to say, "Don't wear a sunscreen." And I tell people all the time, "Don't wear a sunscreen. Wear sunblock, like zinc oxide." You know, we've talked about this before. Zinc oxide, you don't have to worry about this endocrine disrupting effect. Sunscreens have endocrine disrupting properties. Certain antioxidants can have endocrine disrupting effects.
0:08:51.3 BF: So what do you do? How do you handle all this? Less is more. Stay away from preservatives in skincare. Stay away from fragrances. Stay away from sunscreens in skincare. And use small amounts. That's why when I formulate products, I'm formulating my products super concentrated with lots of nutrients. So all you need is one or two drops. The idea of slathering a skincare product on your skin is a recipe for disaster because you're putting lots of stuff on your skin. The skin doesn't really want a lot of stuff on it, nor does it even need a lot of stuff on it. While we all enjoy the sensual nature of applying a skincare product, it kind of feels good, it's not really good for the skin. So less is more. If you're going to wear sunscreen and you don't want to burn... So sometimes you do need a sunscreen, get it off your skin as soon as possible. Try to use unpreserved products.
0:09:41.6 MS: Are men just as vulnerable?
0:09:43.9 BF: Oh, heck yes. Estrogen is feminizing. Estrogen disruptor, endocrine disrupting can affect men through skincare products, but body fat also makes estrogen. So the more body fat you're carrying, the more estrogen you're going to be making. And that can also cause problems with endocrine disruption. And then also because estrogen is cleared out of the body through, number one, the intestine, through bowel movements. Number two, through bile. You have to have enough bile secretion, and bile is one of the major ways we detoxify estrogen. And then also in the liver. So between things like fatty liver disease, intestinal issues, or having a gallbladder taken out, or having insufficient bile secretion, all of these can compound estrogenic issues. And in women, estrogen, whether it's estrogen that's not being eliminated properly, or estrogen that's coming in through skincare products, estrogen-like substances that are coming through skincare products can cause all kinds of health issues. And as I said earlier, inflammatory diseases in women are almost always have at least some kind of estrogen component.
0:10:49.7 BF: So yes, men can be affected by estrogen. Women can be affected by these. When I say estrogen, I'm thinking estrogen-like compounds, because it's not exactly estrogen. Estrogen-like compounds. Yeah, men can be affected. Women can be affected. It can have disease-causing effects, reproductive effects. And then infertility is an epidemic, and infertility can be caused by that as well. Have you heard about the frogs, the hermaphroditic frogs?
0:11:15.6 MS: No.
0:11:18.0 BF: They're animals that are male and female. They have male body parts and female body parts. And a lot of that is caused by estrogen disruption or endocrine disruption, ink from chemicals that are in the water. So industrial chemicals also have endocrine disruption properties.
0:11:34.2 MS: That concludes our show for today, and we thank you for listening. But if you just can't get enough of Ben Fuchs, the ASCP's Rogue Pharmacist, you can find him at truthtreatments.com. For more information on this episode or for ways to connect with Ben Fuchs or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes.