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

 

3 Toxic Skincare Ingredients to Ditch Today

How often do you stop to think about the skincare ingredients you’re exposed to every day?

We all love beauty products that make us feel as good as we look. Refreshing shower gels, flowery shampoos, pampering body butters – there’s no better feeling than giving yourself a bit of TLC. But all too often, the skincare ingredients lurking in our favourite products are counteractive to all the good stuff we’re lavishing on our skins.

Dishing the Dirt on Skincare Ingredients

Your skin is not a wetsuit; it’s a highly sensitive, highly absorbent organ. Just as you perspire through your pores, you also absorb things through them. To put it another way: Sweat comes out, sh*t goes in! That means every skincare ingredient you apply on the surface will sink in through your pores, and into your bloodstream.

When you think about it that way, are the ingredients in your everyday lotions and potions really the kind of things you want going into your system? There are a few skincare ingredients out there that can really mess with your body, not just on the surface, but from the inside too. Here’s the rundown on three of the biggest culprits.

1. SLS/ SLES

My number one nemesis when it comes to skincare ingredients is sodium lauryl or laureth sulphate (SLS or SLES). It’s a surfactant that’s used in a huge variety of personal care and cleaning products, and is usually what gives those products their ‘foaming’ properties. So anything that foams – body wash, toothpaste, shampoo, bubble bath, bar soap, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent – it all includes SLS.

The fact that this nasty is used interchangeably as a skincare ingredient and cleaning agent should be a big red flag!

SLS and SLES are known to be irritants. Their harsh grease-removing action can really throw the delicate balance of your skin’s natural oils and pH levels out of whack. This leads to dryness, sensitivity and cracked, flaky skin.

Another major concern is how these skincare ingredients can interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogens. These interactions can cause major health issues like kidney and respiratory damage too.

2. Parabens

Parabens are a type of preservative, used in cosmetic products to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould. They’re effective and cheap, which is why they’re so popular with large mass-produced beauty brands. But they are seriously bad news for your body.

Parabens have been shown to be xenoestrogens. If you think that kind of makes them sound like nasty little alien invaders, you’re not far off the mark! Xenoestrogens are substances that mimic oestrogen hormones in the body. So once they’re absorbed through your skin, they disrupt your existing hormone levels, and this can wreak havoc on your reproductive health, thyroid function and overall wellness. The oestrogen-mimicking properties of parabens have even been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and tumours.

3. Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used as solvents, in personal care products as well as detergents. Phthalates are often added to fragrances, where they are not listed as individual ingredients, so they lurk secretly in many perfumed products like deodorant, cologne, hair spray and body lotion.

Like parabens, phthalates are endocrine (hormonal) disruptors. Prolonged exposure to these toxic skincare ingredients can affect hormonal balance and reproductive health.

A Gentler Approach to Skincare

These three are just a few of the really ‘big bads’ I wanted to highlight. Conventional skincare products are loaded with many other unnecessary ingredients (synthetic colours, preservatives, additives) that don’t do your body any good.

To start detoxing your skincare regime, look for more natural products, with ingredient lists that are free of the worst offenders. The more natural you go, the better you’ll feel – you might even be inspired to start making your own all-natural body products with ingredients like botanical oils and beeswax.

When you start using beauty products that are full of nutrients instead of toxins, you can really start honouring your body and replenishing the health of your skin. Look out for some of my favourite natural body care products and DIY recipes, all made with the purest natural skincare ingredients!

Ren xx