Melanie Grant, Emma Lewisham: Skin experts on hormones and beauty | Victoria Beckham

Some of Australia’s most respected beauty founders have warned about toxic ingredients in skincare and fragrance that can disrupt a women’s hormones.

“Endocrine disrupters” are natural or man-made chemicals that “may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones, known as the endocrine system”, commonly found in skincare and fragrances.

And the beauty industry is seeing a rise in “clean”, non-toxic products aimed at protecting wearers from the effects, experts say.

Belinda Smith, the founder of Australian fragrance brand St Rose, said: “In underregulated beauty industry, we believe in transparent ingredient disclosure”.

“It is still novel for brands in the beauty industry and especially fragrance to share all of the ingredients in their products,” Ms Smith said.

Ms Smith urged consumers to avoid products where ingredients weren’t fully disclosed. “When you see ‘fragrance’ listed, but unexplained, on any cosmetics label — not just on a bottle of perfume but on any scented product from shampoo and body wash to lipstick – it is important to know that this is a placeholder for countless ingredients that the manufacturer has deemed a’ trade secret’ and is legally protected from disclosing,” Ms Smith said.

“I don’t believe that there is any nefarious intent to sneak toxic chemicals into people’s personal and home care products but unfortunately in the US for instance, cosmetic safety laws have not been updated since 1938.”

Ms Smith said Europe had banned more than 1300 chemicals from personal care products, while the US had only outlawed 11. “And in Australia, there is no single list of chemicals that are banned or restricted in products but rather a risk-based approach where ingredients are assessed based on their potential risks to human health,” Ms Smith said.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – a global umbrella coalition of groups aiming to expose potentially toxic or dangerous chemicals and advocating for transparency in the personal-care industry – commissioned independent laboratory tests on mainstream perfumes and found “solvents, stabilisers, preservatives, and dyes, including compounds associated with hormone disruption,” Ms Smith said.

“Among the most common of these harmful ingredients are phthalates which are used in fragrance to make the scent last longer,” she said.

She said her clean perfume brand, St Rose, which was founded in 2018, was made with a “very strict list of ingredients”, and were “cleanly composed with the highest-quality natural and naturally derived ingredients”.

“Every ingredient we use is ethically harvested, organic when possible, and sourced with traceability from its native region for the purest quality and minimal environmental stress,” Ms Smith – who is based in the US state of Ohio – said.

Emma Lewisham, the New Zealand-born skin mogul whose natural skincare is stocked at Mecca and doing huge business in Australia, where it is partly based, urged consumers to make “informed choices when it comes to beauty and skincare to reduce your exposure to endocrine disrupters and potentially serious health effects”.

“Endocrine glands release hormones into our bloodstream that help control functions such as our mood, organ function, metabolism, fertility, reproduction, and our growth and development,” Ms Lewisham said.

“Endocrine disrupting chemicals are therefore chemicals that block or interfere with this process. Hormones require a delicate balance and so even minor disruptions to their levels can cause significant health and developmental impacts.”

She urged consumers to avoid products which featured endocrine disrupters including parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES), BHT and BPA.

“In skincare, parabens are typically used as preservatives, phthalates to help prolong fragrance, SLS as a cleansing agent, BHT to stabilise and protect ingredients, and BPA can be found in many hard plastic packaging containers,” Ms Lewisham said.

For Melanie Grant, the Australian celebrity facialist whose clients include Victoria Beckham, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Dua Lipa, skin comes first – and she says its health is a “reflection of many of the body’s processes”.

“From hormones to gut health, sleep deprivation and stress,” Grant – who is based in London and founded her skin empire in Sydney – adds. “Hormones dictate the amount of oil our skin produces, the integrity of our collagen and elastin production and a potential for conditions like acne, rosacea and melasma.”

Grant’s approach is a well-rounded “360 degree” tactic that spans a “strategic home regime and treatment plan and takes internal and external hormonal influences into consideration if there are signs of an imbalance”.

“Hormones influence changes in the skin as we navigate various seasons of our lives – from puberty to pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause,” she says.

“Seeking advice from a doctor or endocrinologist can offer a detailed snapshot of your hormone levels and give a blueprint from which you can make adjustments to your diet, supplementation habits and lifestyle.

“We’re all unique, so working collaboratively with your facialist to devise a specific home regime and treatment plan is the best way to work strategically for you is the best way to deliver truly personalised, lasting results.”

Meantime, Grant – one of the most in-demand facialists globally – recently unveiled her latest venture – a collaboration with Beckham’s Victoria Beckham Beauty that was two years in the making. Grant and Beckham have released a “double cleansing” routine with the Daily Oil Cleaner and Daily Lactic Acid Gel Cleanser, available in Australia via Melanie Grant.

Beckham and Grant have described cleansing as “the basic foundation of any good skincare regime”. Grant says the key was to “strengthen” the skin via cleansing, rather than stripping it of oils it actually needs.

“I have been obsessing around the cleansing conversation over many years,” Beckham said, of the collaboration with Grant. “It starts with making sure your skin is clean – really clean. I need to make sure I am taking my makeup off correctly.”

Melanie Grant and Victoria Beckham’s cleansing protocol is exclusive to Melanie Grant Studios in Australia.

Originally published as From Melanie Grant to Emma Lewisham: Skin experts on how hormones impact your beauty routine

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