Emily Baines
March 12, 2016 9:20 am
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I used to be afraid to go out of the house without wearing makeup. Now I’m afraid to put any on. A new study from researchers at UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas found that teenage girls who switched cosmetics for just three days had a big drop in certain chemicals in their bodies.

The research, published March 7 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, came from a study of 100 Latina teenagers participating in the Health and Environmental Research on Makeup of Salinas Adolescents (HERMOSA) study.

The team looked at four chemicals used in cosmetics, shampoos, and lotions. These chemicals, known as “hormone disruptors,” can interfere with estrogen and testosterone in the human body. While data is still coming in about long-term effects, Berkeley’s research suggests they may affect “neurobehavioral problems, obesity and cancer cell growth.” Eeeek.

The four chemicals are:

I just looked up my sunscreen’s ingredients, and yup, there it is—oxybenzone.

“Because women are the primary consumers of many personal care products, they may be disproportionately exposed to these chemicals,” warned the study’s lead author Kim Harley, associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health. “Teen girls may be at particular risk since it’s a time of rapid reproductive development, and research has suggested that they use more personal care products per day than the average adult woman.”

Harley’s hypothesis proved to be correct, as analysis of urine samples before and after a three-day trial found significant drops in levels of these chemicals in teen study participants.

While the study itself is disturbing, there’s an upside: The study was partly designed by teens.

You read that right: UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud researchers developed the study together with teen members of the CHAMACOS Youth Community Council, a leadership training program for Salinas high school students.

One of the study’s writers, Kimberly Parra, made it clear that it was incredibly important that they involve local youth in the study’s design and implementation:

“It was a great way for us to cross cultural barriers and language barriers by first educating the teenagers and then having them go home and educate their families,” said one of the teen researchers, Maritza Cárdenas. A Salinas native and study co-author, Cárdenas, is now a UC Berkeley undergraduate majoring in molecular and cell biology.

Since the study, Cárdenas has become increasingly wary of cosmetic products, stating:

I, for one, feel more aware, and plan to make smarter shopping choices. It seems I’m not alone. A recent poll showed that 70 percent of likely voters believe the government should be responsible for making sure chemicals in personal care products are safe. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins have introduced bipartisan legislation that would give the FDA more authority in regards to regulating personal care products. Studies like this one can only help the cause.

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