The Institute for Women's Health

Women make so many sacrifices for beauty: enduring pain, purchasing endless products and spending time for the right look. One more sacrifice that could arise is early menopause.

When menopause occurs early, it usually happens before a woman turns 40. Many of the products we use on a daily basis contain harmful chemicals, especially beauty products. Recent studies have found that women with high levels of chemicals experienced menopause 2 to 4 years earlier.

image002These chemicals disrupt the endocrine hormonal systems, which with daily exposure can affect when a woman experiences the natural decline in hormones. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected data from across the nation between 1999 and 2008, and researchers at Washington University School of Medicine analyzed the data in a new study.

Amber Cooper, MD, senior author of the study and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, noticed links between polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, and phthalates and an earlier onset of menopause. Although most of these chemicals are banned here in the U.S., they are produced and used in products from other parts of the world.

Like regular menopause, the symptoms of premature menopause are irregular or missed periods, heavier or lighter bleeding during periods, and hot flashes. Additionally, women can experience vaginal dryness, incontinence, and mood swings. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN.

image001So how can women prevent premature menopause? I tell my patients to check ingredient labels for any products not manufactured here, especially our favorite makeup and fragrance products. Look for preservatives like BHA and BHT, and other chemicals such as dibutyl phthalate and parabens, since they disrupt endocrine production and affect ovarian function.

Although fertility may not be an issue for women close to 40 years old, reduced ovarian function can also lead to other health conditions, including heart disease and osteoporosis. The best way to catch any condition is to schedule your regular wellness checks and bone density scans as your body matures. Your physician can help you determine when you may need menopause management or hormone therapy.

Dr. Wendy Askew
The Institute for Women’s Health