By Julie Watts


BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Teenage girls are among the heaviest users of personal care products. Now, a new study done in the Bay Area on a specific segment of the population finds many of those products have a disconcerting downside.

However, the study also proposed a simple solution.

From shampoo to shaving cream and lipstick to lotions, teens use an average of 17 personal care products a day.

That worries researchers like UC Berkeley’s Dr. Kim Harley.

“We know that a lot of makeup and personal care products contain chemicals that block or mimic or otherwise interfere with hormones,” said Harley.

She recently conducted a study of 100 Latina teenagers. It found nearly all had detectable levels of four hormone-disrupting chemicals in their bodies.

Those chemicals included Phthalate, Parabens, Triclosan and Oxybenzone, according to Health and Environmental Research on Makeup of Salinas Adolescents or HERMOSA.

Phthalates are used in nail polish and fragrances. Parabens are a type of preservative while Triclosan is   an anti-bacterial agent. Oxybenzone is a component found in sunscreen.

Just three days after switching from their regular personal care products to more natural versions their levels for those chemicals plunged.

“It really highlights that they were getting exposed from their personal care products,” explained Harley.

The doctor said that is particularly concerning for teens in the midst of rapid brain and reproductive development.

Maritza Cardenas was a study participant and research assistant. She called the experience eye opening.

“It was a little bit scary to think I had all these chemicals in my body,” said Cardenas.

One of the main concerns raised by the study is that manufacturers aren’t required to list all their ingredients on their packaging.

However, there are ways to find out what is in your products.

The non-profit organization Environmental Working Group has created its Skin Deep Cosmetics Database so people can search more than 60,000 products. The database ranks each ingredient based on a hazard level of 1-10.

Researchers advise sticking to brands with the fewest chemicals and fragrances. That is a lesson maritza says has changed her life and her makeup case.

The personal care products industry is critical of the study.

It says some natural chemicals have also been linked to hormone like activity and that more study is needed.

However, both sides agree the chemicals in question leave the body in a matter of days.

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