Hormone Disruptors-chemicals to avoid

We often hear about endocrine/hormone disruptor chemicals and xenoestrogens. 

What exactly are these endocrine/hormone disruptors? And what are these xenoestrogens?

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) are compounds that alter the normal functioning of the endocrine (hormone) system. Our endocrine system is amazingly well-operated. It consists of the glands and organs that make hormones and release them directly into our bloodstream so they can travel to tissues and organs all over the body. When these hormone disruptor chemicals enter our bodies from the outside, they can interfere with our hormones. They can mimic our natural hormones and can block or bind to our hormone receptors. Unfortunately, a vast number of chemicals have been identified as endocrine disruptors. (1)(2)

So, what about xenoestrogens? They are a sub-category of the endocrine disruptor group. They are hormone disruptors too but specifically disrupt the oestrogen hormone.  Oestrogen is an essential natural hormone with many roles, from bone growth and blood clotting to reproduction in men and women. The body cleverly regulates the amount needed through biochemical pathways. However, excess xenoestrogens can increase the total amount of oestrogen, resulting in oestrogen dominance. We could ask: “Isn’t it good to have extra oestrogen, especially during menopause when our oestrogen declines”? The answer is NO. This oestrogen is not biodegradable; instead of regulating our bodies, it accumulates in our fat cells, and our liver finds it hard to eliminate. The symptoms of oestrogen dominance are fatigue, headaches, weight gain, decreased sex drive and many more. (3) (4) 

The bad news is that these substances mess with our entire hormone system. 

How do these chemicals get into our bodies? Where exactly can we find them? And the most important question is how can we avoid them?

There are many chemicals in our environment; the list is long. Here, we are only looking at the most common sources.

1. Beauty products/toiletries

Have you ever thought about how many chemicals you put on your skin in one day? Our skin is the largest organ that easily absorbs chemicals which end up straight in our bloodstream. Our beauty products/toiletries and essential everyday products have many endocrine disruptors. These beauty products are supposed to make us feel better, look younger or smell good; on the other hand, we are exposing ourselves to these harmful chemicals that are detrimental to our health. You might be shocked if you count how many chemicals you put on your skin after your morning routine before even stepping outside. Shall we count? Let’s start with your face wash, body wash, deodorant, moisturiser, sunscreen, body lotion, make-up, and perfume. Hmmm, anything else?

Most common EDCs we can find in our favourite beauty products: 

PARABENS are preservative agents used in cosmetics (face creams, sunscreens, hair products); also, we can find them in food products and pharmaceuticals. As preservatives, their role is to prevent bacteria and fungi growth. They are associated with oestrogenic and anti-androgen activity (can affect sperm function, prenatal development etc.). (5) (6)

PFAS (Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) help penetrate the skin. They are primarily in moisturiser and liquid foundations. (7)

TRICLOSAN is usually in toothpaste, soap, antibacterial products such as liquid handwashes, washing up liquid etc.  It acts as an antibacterial agent.  Luckily, they replaced it in many products, but unfortunately, we can still find them in some. Mainly replaced in hand washes probably due to the risk of everyday use. The good news is that we don’t need triclosan or any other antibacterial agents to kill germs. (8) (9) Check the label of any antibacterial products!

BENZOPHENONE-3 is used in sunscreens and cosmetics for its protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays. (10)

PHTHALATES are in nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, and other toiletry items, sometimes labelled as a fragrance. According to the 2020 review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, phthalates are associated with male and female reproductive disorders, pregnancy adverse outcomes and gynaecological cancers. (11)  

How to avoid exposure to these harmful chemicals? 

  • Reduce the number of beauty products
  • Read the labels and avoid the chemicals mentioned above
  • Try to find natural, fragranced cosmetics/shampoos rather than synthetic ones. (For example, choose a fragrance with essential oils.)
  • Avoid antibacterial labelled hand washes (if they contain triclosan)

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2. Plastic food containers/food cans/plastic drink bottles

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a well-known chemical; I am sure you have heard its name before. You can find it in can food, bottled water (plastic), ready meals etc. BPA can leach from plastic containers or bottles into your food and beverages. Especially true for food and drink, which are kept in BPA-contained plastic for

extended periods. Plus, additional BPA can leach into your food and drink if it is exposed to heat or sunlight (e.g., Microwave ready-meal, food heated in a plastic tub or drink bottles kept under the direct sun). (12)

How to avoid exposure to BPA?

  • Don’t buy plastic bottled water; buy it in glass or do your own sparkling/carbonated water. (e.g. with a soda stream)
  • Store your food in glass or stainless-steel containers
  • Never heat plastic in the microwave
  • Try to reduce your ready meals
  • Find BPA-free plastic, however, watch out as some companies label their products BPA-free and replace the BPA with equally harmful chemicals. 

3. Pesticides

Pesticides control pests/weeds and diseases. The main types of pesticides include insecticides (e.g., chlorpyrifos), fungicides (e.g., difenoconazole), herbicides (e.g., glyphosate) and plant growth regulators (e.g., chlormequat). Plant growth regulator helps reduce plant height and increase stem thickness, making harvesting grains such as wheat easier. Especially EDC in plant growth regulators has been linked to developmental and reproductive health issues. (13) (14)

We expose ourselves to pesticides through diet (fruit and veggies) and environment (water, soil, air) or due to occupation (e.g., farming). (15)

How can we avoid this exposure?

  • When possible, buy organic or grow your own.
  • There is a list called the “dirty dozen” which states what fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides in the UK.  This list changes yearly, but PAN UK (Pesticide Action Network UK) analysed the government data from the year 2018,2019 and 2020 and turned it into one list. If you cannot afford all organic, (as let’s be honest organic fruits and vegetables are very expensive) then try to BUY ORGANIC from the above list.  

Here is the “Dirty dozen” list: grapefruit, soft citrus (mandarins, satsumas), strawberries, oranges, dried grapes (sultana, raisin), herbs, prepacked salads, grapes, lemons, pears, peaches, nectarines and spinach. (16)  Stick this list to your fridge when you go shopping and try to buy ORGANIC fruits and vegetables from this list. 

Wash or peel your fruits and veggies, as it can reduce some exposure to these harmful chemicals. However, it won’t eliminate it entirely, as some pesticides are systemic. Systemic means plants absorb them, so the chemicals are not only on the outside but also within the body. (17)

Bottom line:

I could mention more endocrine disruptor chemicals, which we can find in sofas, carpets (fire retardants), paints, etc. The list is endless. It is pretty hard to make changes when these “everyday essentials” surround us. Getting rid of the carpet as you wish from a rented property is not easy. Plus, we all like the comfort and warmth of wall-to-wall carpets. Don’t we? Chemical-free paints can be costly, too, and not always affordable. Even just thinking about it can be overwhelming, and this article’s purpose is not to cause anxiety or scare you. Just be mindful, make small changes and think twice about what you apply to your skin or what you choose to eat. Add milk thistle such as  Purification to your diet to support your liver in the elimination of these toxins. (18) These little changes can make a massive difference to your health!

Bee healthy and happy! 😊

Gabriella Crust

Gabriella Crust

Nutritional Therapist



  1. Yilmaz B, Terekeci H, Sandal S, Kelestimur F. Endocrine disrupting chemicals: exposure, effects on human health, mechanism of action, models for testing and strategies for prevention. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2020 Mar;21(1):127-147. doi: 10.1007/s11154-019-09521-z. PMID: 31792807.
  2. Hlisníková H, Petrovičová I, Kolena B, Šidlovská M, Sirotkin A. Effects and Mechanisms of Phthalates’ Action on Reproductive Processes and Reproductive Health: A Literature Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 18;17(18):6811. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186811. PMID: 32961939; PMCID: PMC7559247.
  3. Wang X, Ha D, Yoshitake R, Chan YS, Sadava D, Chen S. Exploring the Biological Activity and Mechanism of Xenoestrogens and Phytoestrogens in Cancers: Emerging Methods and Concepts. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Aug 16;22(16):8798. doi: 10.3390/ijms22168798. PMID: 34445499; PMCID: PMC8395949.
  4. Whole Health Library – Oestrogen dominance
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  6. BEUC The European Consumer Organisation -Potential hormonal disruptors in consumers cosmetics 2019 parabens
  7. Endocrine-disrupting activity of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances: Exploring combined approaches of ligand and structure based modeling. Chemosphere. 2017 Oct;184:514-523. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.06.024. Epub 2017 Jun 9. PMID: 28622647.
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  9. BEUC The European Consumer Organisation -Potential hormonal disruptors in consumers cosmetics 2019- triclosan
  10. BEUC The European Consumer Organisation -Potential hormonal disruptors in consumers’ cosmetics 2019 – Benzophenone-3
  11. Hlisníková H, Petrovičová I, Kolena B, Šidlovská M, Sirotkin A. Effects and Mechanisms of Phthalates’ Action on Reproductive Processes and Reproductive Health: A Literature Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 18;17(18):6811. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186811. PMID: 32961939; PMCID: PMC7559247.
  12. Huo X, Chen D, He Y, Zhu W, Zhou W, Zhang J. Bisphenol-A and Female Infertility: A Possible Role of Gene-Environment Interactions. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Sep 7;12(9):11101-16. doi: 10.3390/ijerph120911101. PMID: 26371021; PMCID: PMC4586663.
  13. PAN Pesticide Action Network UK
  14. HarwardT.H. Chan School of Public Health 2017 Pesticides in produce linked with reduced fertility in women
  15. Mnif W, Hassine AI, Bouaziz A, Bartegi A, Thomas O, Roig B. Effect of endocrine disruptor pesticides: a review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Jun;8(6):2265-303. doi: 10.3390/ijerph8062265. Epub 2011 Jun 17. PMID: 21776230; PMCID: PMC3138025.
  16. PAN Pesticide Action Network UK -The dirty dozen
  17. PAN Pesticide Action Network UK – pesticide and washing them
  18. Guo Y, Wang S, Wang Y, Zhu T. Silymarin improved diet-induced liver damage and insulin resistance by decreasing inflammation in mice. Pharm Biol. 2016 Dec;54(12):2995-3000. doi: 10.1080/13880209.2016.1199042. Epub 2016 Jul 8. PMID: 27387273.