What are Parabens (and Why Should You Avoid Them)?

Parabens are a group of chemicals used in many cosmetics and medications as a preservative. These compounds and their salts are primarily used for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties.

Where are Parabens Found?

The six main parabens are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, butylparaben and benzylparaben. They can be found in shampoo, moisturising cream, antiperspirant deodorant, shaving gel, make up, topical medications, sunscreens and toothpaste.

Sometimes they’re also used as additives in food. Their efficacy as preservatives combined with their low cost probably explains why they are so often used. However, the use of parabens has become controversial and some people advise against everyday use.

The Problem with Parabens

The parabens in cosmetic products penetrate bodily tissues without going through the digestive process; therefore these substances remain intact within the tissue.

The cosmetics industry maintains that parabens are absolutely safe and focus on the need for more in-depth research to prove the opposite. However, studies on the long-term effects of these substances have never been carried out, not to mention the effects of the other hundreds of chemicals in their products that come in contact with the body. Until there is 100% clarity about their effects on humans and the environment, it is advisable to stay well clear of them.

Did You Know? A study carried out by the University of Reading has discovered the presence of parabens in the breast tissue of 18 out of 20 patients who suffered from breast cancer. Since it has been shown that parabens can mimic the action of estrogens, their presence in breast cancer tissue cannot be underestimated.

Unfortunately, this one study is not enough to establish a definite correlation between parabens and breast cancer. But it does sufficiently prove that these substances accumulate in body tissue, which is bad news.

Another study was conducted to examine the connection between parabens and dermal damage. Japanese researchers studied the effects of methylparaben, commonly used as an antiseptic in many cosmetic preparations. This ingredient, which had already been linked to skin allergies and occasional dermatitis, is currently present in at least 3559 cosmetic products (as indicated by the Environmental Working Group).

The research team applied methylparaben to the test subjects’ skin in quantities similar to those contained in cosmetic products. Then the skin was exposed to 30 millijoules of ultraviolet light per square centimetre, a quantity equal to the average absorbed during the summer season exposure. 19% of the exposed skin cells died, while in places where methylparaben had not been applied to the skin cells’ mortality rate was about 6%.

Choose Paraben-Free Products

Parabens aren’t used in natural and organic body care products. Instead, the dyes extracted from high-quality organic plants and mixed with organic alcohol are preserved for a minimum of 2-3 years. For example, 100% vegetal body oil can last up to 18 months. There are loads of all-natural body care goodies out there that contain none of these nasty ingredients. Choose paraben-free, for your health and the planet.

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash