Decoding the link between perfumes and PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal problems among women. In the current scenario of compromised lifestyle and dietary habits, the situation has only worsened with at least three out of 10 women being diagnosed with the condition. As we know, it is a lifestyle disease and experts recommend curing it by regularly exercising, consuming a nutritious diet and weight loss, among others.

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But, did you know that those with PCOS must also eliminate certain items from their lifestyles such as milk and milk products, use of plastics, cosmetics and perfumes? Yes, you read that right!

Perfumes, too, can be harmful to women as most of them contain triclosan (TCS) – a chlorinated aromatic compound. “It is widely used in personal care as well as household products such as perfumed soaps, shampoo, toothpaste and liquid disinfectants,” Dr Monika Singh, Assistant Professor (Department of OBGY), Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences, said.

Explaining how exposure to TCS is linked to PCOS, Dr Singh said, “Widespread exposures to TCS have been observed in many countries. Evidence from animal and in vitro studies suggested a variety of hormonal activities of TCS, including oestrogenic, androgenic and antiandrogenic activities, and disturbance of thyroid hormone activities, all of which are related to PCOS-like syndrome.”

No perfume containing synthetic fragrance can be said to be safe (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

She added that it may contribute to the clinical manifestation of PCOS.

As such, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on September 9, 2016, banned the incorporation of triclosan and 18 other antimicrobial chemicals from household soap products. The following year, it prevented companies from using triclosan in over-the-counter healthcare antiseptic products without premarket review. India, however, lacks any such regulation on the use of triclosan-laced products, the expert shared.

Sharing how perfumes containing synthetic fragrances are linked to PCOS, Dr Gunjan Gupta Govil, Founder and Chairman, Gunjan IVF World Group, added: “Your body has certain hormones — FSH and LH — and there’s a proper balance between them. Synthetic fragrances have certain compounds known as environmental endocrine disruptors. They disrupt the hormonal balance between FSH and LH. As a result, conditions like PCOS become more prominent. Research has found that patients who use such fragrances have an increased incidence of PCOS as compared to those who do not.”

Advising to avoid such perfumes as much as possible, she explained that no perfume containing synthetic fragrance can be said to be safe. “Even small amounts have been associated with PCOS. Use natural products such as essential oils as they don’t have these environmental endocrine disruptors,” Dr Govil suggested.

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