What are parabens and should we avoid them?
You may have noticed a few products cropping up with “paraben free” on them.
But, what are they? And should we be avoiding them?
I am going to try to simplify this for you and give you some information from sources I trust.
Well, basically, parabens are preservatives used in cosmetic products and sometimes food. Look out for them in your shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, toothpaste, moisturisers, deodorants….. pretty much check the labels of all your cosmetics! They are also found in food products like pies, sausages and pastries.
Their function is to stop fungus and bateria growing in your products.
Parabens are derived from petroleum and you will often see it prefaced with methyl, propyl, butyl, ethyl, isobutyl, isopropyl or benzyl.
So why are people freaking out about parabens?
In a study looking at breast cancer, parabens were found in the tumours of 18 out of 20 women. This led to the suspicion that parabens might be causing an increase in breast cancers.
In another study by the US Environmental Protection Agency, parabens were found to mimic hormones and disrupt endocrine function (our glands which secrete hormones around the body).
There is also some evidence that “butyl paraben adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system. In the present study, it is shown that propyl paraben also adversely affects the hormonal secretion and the male reproductive functions.”
The EWG Skin Deep Database rates several parabens at the toxic end of the scale.
The Chemical Maze Bookshelf Companion says to avoid parabens because of “suspected endocrine disruption, suspected skin or sense organ toxicity, contact skin irritation or dermatitis in some people and wildlife and environmental toxicity.”
On the other hand, there is this information from Choice Australia – ” The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety conducted a review of parabens in consumer goods, and determined that they didn’t pose a risk in the quantities permitted in such products. However the Danish government has banned the use of some of the larger-molecule parabens in products for children up to three years old as a precautionary measure, as children might be especially vulnerable to endocrine effects. This is of particular concern if products are used on broken skin, such as nappy rash.”
So, what’s the verdict?
My concern about these products is the amount we use and the fact that parabens are stored in our bodies. Dr Peter Dingle, scientific researcher and toxicologist says “although companies assure us that the chemicals known to be toxic are in amounts too small to cause harm, no one knows what their long-term, cumulative effects will be. What’s more, we don’t know how toxic these substances are when combined with other ingredients in the product.”
Personally, I think there is enough of a risk and questions raised for me to avoid parabens and err on the side of caution. I also try to avoid all products made from petroleum. Remember parabens are just one of the chemicals that can cause problems.
How do you avoid parabens?
Read labels, read labels, read labels! I like to look up The Chemical Maze or EWG skincare database to check products and ingredients. I also like to stick with good quality, natural skincare that I trust, like Twenty 8, Miessence and Mukti to name a few.
You might also want to check out my post on The Best Australian Natural Skincare Brands.
What do you think? Do you avoid parabens?