Estrogen is essential to a woman’s well-being. It maintains cardiovascular and bone health and plays an important role in healthy, youthful-looking skin. Because estrogen is easily absorbed through the skin, pharmaceutical companies have been quick to develop topical ‘patches’ to deliver medication such as birth control. As women age, the production of estrogen declines. Hence it was a natural idea to include estrogen in topical products that are designed to reduce the visible signs of aging. However, in recent years, we’ve learned that the downside includes a notable increase in the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots and strokes. Clearly, using a skin product with estrogen is ‘buyer beware’. The trouble arises, though, because estrogen is often not listed in the ingredients. Almost 40% of moisturizers in one test were found to contain measurable levels of Estriol and Estrone, with no mention of it on the active ingredients. This means that consumers – men and women – could be unknowingly exposing themselves to estrogens on a daily basis, at a rate that could be risky for anyone, let alone breast cancer patients. Estrogen and estrogen-mimicking ingredients crop up in cosmetics under all sorts of guises, including placental extracts, benzophenones, petrochemicals, and alkylphenols. Nowadays, you’ll find cosmetics touting all kinds of exclusions, like “paraben-free” and “phthalate-free” to “gluten-free”. We may one day see products with “estrogen-free” on their labels as well.