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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


Natural Cleaning for a Healthy Home

Natural cleaning products and ingredients are a surefire way to keep your home sparkling, without the negative side-effects of conventional detergents. But it takes time and determination to change your mindset and move away from the “big brand” cleaners many of us have grown up with.

Modern society has been greatly influenced by an endless stream of advertising by big companies looking to sell us their household cleaners. This has helped to form the belief that we must live in a house that is completely aseptic. We also expect our products to work harder in less time. We want perfect results instantly, don’t we? If we pause to reflect critically on the way we clean our homes, most likely we’ll realise how many things we take for granted.

Poisons in our Homes

Research conducted in Europe and the US has confirmed that domestic pollution is often higher and more concentrated than that found in nature. In the process of trying to eliminate bacteria from the surfaces of our kitchens and bathrooms, we find ourselves immersed in solvent fumes and volatile chemicals. We keep our children away from our detergents, but allow them to crawl over the floors that we’ve washed with those same products. Where’s the logic in that?

Some people are very careful about what they eat, and make sure to buy only organic foods – but then they wash their clothes with chemical detergents and fabric softeners that are highly toxic and polluting. We tend to forget how easily the skin absorbs the substances it comes into contact with – it’s not a wetsuit, people!

It’s not only our own health we should be thinking about. The environment around us is constantly threatened by the use of detergents that are crammed with synthetics (petrochemicals, parabens, SLS, perfumes, colourants… the list of crap goes on and on). We can help to reduce this toxic load by switching to natural cleaning detergents.

A More Natural Approach

These natural cleaning essentials have antibacterial properties, and can be used to keep your house clean without all the unnecessary toxins:

  • White vinegar
  • Natural salt
  • Lemons
  • Baking soda
  • Liquid castile soap
  • Borax

If you’re not quite ready to go the DIY route just yet, there are some great natural and biodegradable cleaning ranges on the market today. Just make sure you read the ingredient lists before purchasing. Look out for certifications too, to make sure you’re getting the real deal.

Bonus Tip: Once you start choosing natural cleaning products, go one step further and start looking at the packaging those products come in. Biodegradable and recyclable materials are the cleaner alternative to plastic detergent bottles.

Let’s start the new year afresh, with a natural cleaning regime for a healthier, toxin-free home!

Ren xx