Men’s use of personal care products and the chemicals they contain has doubled in the past 20 years.

Men's use of personal care products and the chemicals they contain has doubled in the past 20 years.

Men’s Use of Personal Care Products Increases, Exposing Them to Potentially Harmful Chemicals

Men’s Use of Personal Care Products

Men’s use of personal care products has almost doubled since 2004, exposing them to potentially harmful chemicals, according to a new study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This study reveals that on average, American adults use 12 personal care products every day, with as many as 112 chemical ingredients. Interestingly, this is a decrease from the previous average of nine products containing 126 unique chemical ingredients.

The gap between men’s and women’s use of personal care products is also narrowing. Women now use around 13 care products daily, compared to 12 in the past. Surprisingly, men have substantially increased their product use, going from six in 2004 to 11 products daily. This includes six products for body care, one for skin care, one cosmetic, two for hair care, and one for baby care.

Notably, some individuals are heavy users, with 10% of U.S. adults utilizing more than 25 personal care products each day. These products include cosmetics, shampoos, moisturizers, deodorants, soaps, and more. However, this increase in product use does not necessarily warrant alarm.

Homer Swei, a senior vice president of healthy living science at EWG, mentioned that although the number of daily product exposures has risen, the number of unique ingredients has actually decreased. Swei credits this change to clean beauty, stewardship retailer programs, U.S. state laws, and increased consumer awareness regarding product ingredients. The health-conscious trend has positively influenced the marketplace and driven a shift towards healthier ingredients.

While most of the ingredients in personal care products receive a green rating, indicating safety, some ingredients still raise concerns. The study found that on average, U.S. consumers are exposed to two ingredients linked to cancer and two ingredients that can harm the reproductive and development systems. These harmful exposures mostly come from body care, skin care, and cosmetics, containing chemicals such as parabens, talc, cyclopentasiloxane, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and triethanolamine. Additionally, researchers discovered that the average adult is exposed to 15 fragrance chemicals each day, and seven of these have the potential to cause allergic reactions.

The term “fragrance” poses an additional concern as it can encompass up to 4,000 different chemicals. Hidden within this term, consumers may find hormone-disrupting ingredients, including phthalates. Since fragrances are not required to be disclosed, consumers may unknowingly expose themselves to various fragrance-related ingredients.

The survey highlights the growing consumer awareness and concern regarding the safety of product ingredients, with 85% of adults expressing worry. However, Dr. Raman Madan, a dermatologist at Northwell Health, suggests that anxiety over these chemicals might be exaggerated. He clarifies that many of these substances do not get absorbed by the body, and even if they do, the amount is minimal. He also emphasizes that the body encounters numerous substances throughout the day, diminishing the individual impact of each one.

Currently, only a small number of ingredients are banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for personal care product use. However, consumers are starting to fight back. Johnson & Johnson recently reached an $8.9 billion settlement for thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc products cause cancer. In 2020, California passed the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, which plans to ban 24 ingredients from cosmetic products starting in 2025. Other states, including Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington, have also implemented or are considering new safety laws for personal care products.

Meanwhile, companies are becoming more transparent about their product ingredients, and there is an increased trend towards ingredient disclosure. While some undesirable ingredients still persist, the industry is slowly making progress toward safer formulations.

To learn more about what is currently restricted in cosmetics, please visit the FDA’s website.


  • Raman Madan, MD, Dermatology, Northwell Health
  • Homer Swei, PhD, Senior Vice President, Healthy Living Science, EWG
  • Sydney Swanson, Healthy Living Science Analyst, EWG