Cosmetics as endocrine disruptors: are they a health risk?

Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2015 Dec;16(4):373-83. doi: 10.1007/s11154-016-9329-4.


Exposure to chemicals from different sources in everyday life is widespread; one such source is the wide range of products listed under the title "cosmetics", including the different types of popular and widely-advertised sunscreens. Women are encouraged through advertising to buy into the myth of everlasting youth, and one of the most alarming consequences is in utero exposure to chemicals. The main route of exposure is the skin, but the main endpoint of exposure is endocrine disruption. This is due to many substances in cosmetics and sunscreens that have endocrine active properties which affect reproductive health but which also have other endpoints, such as cancer. Reducing the exposure to endocrine disruptors is framed not only in the context of the reduction of health risks, but is also significant against the background and rise of ethical consumerism, and the responsibility of the cosmetics industry in this respect. Although some plants show endocrine-disrupting activity, the use of well-selected natural products might reduce the use of synthetic chemicals. Instruments dealing with this problem include life-cycle analysis, eco-design, and green labels; in combination with the committed use of environmental management systems, they contribute to "corporate social responsibility".

Keywords: Cosmetics; Endocrine active substances; Endocrine disruptors; Sunscreens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetics / toxicity*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment


  • Cosmetics
  • Endocrine Disruptors