Estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity of off-the-shelf hair and skin care products

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2015 May;25(3):271-7. doi: 10.1038/jes.2014.32. Epub 2014 May 21.


Use of personal care products is widespread in the United States but tends to be greater among African Americans than whites. Of special concern is the possible hazard of absorption of chemicals with estrogenic activity (EA) or anti-EA (AEA) in these products. Such exposure may have adverse health effects, especially when it occurs during developmental windows (e.g., prepubertally) when estrogen levels are low. We assessed the ethanol extracts of eight commonly used hair and skin products popular among African Americans for EA and AEA using a cell proliferation assay with the estrogen sensitive MCF-7:WS8 cell line derived from a human breast cancer. Four of the eight personal care products tested (Oil Hair Lotion, Extra-dry Skin Lotion, Intensive Skin Lotion, Petroleum Jelly) demonstrated detectable EA, whereas three (Placenta Hair Conditioner, Tea-Tree Hair Conditioner, Cocoa Butter Skin Cream) exhibited AEA. Our data indicate that hair and skin care products can have EA or AEA, and suggest that laboratory studies are warranted to investigate the in vivo activity of such products under chronic exposure conditions as well as epidemiologic studies to investigate potential adverse health effects that might be associated with use of such products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cosmetics / pharmacology*
  • Estrogen Antagonists / analysis
  • Estrogen Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Estrogens / analysis
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Hair*
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin Care*
  • United States


  • Cosmetics
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Estrogens