Beauty, Skin

Explaining the controversial ingredient: Parabens


You probably know to look for, and stay away from, a little something called Parabens. A paraben is a preservative added to personal care products to keep it from going bad or rancid extending  the shelf life of beauty and personal care products.

The official meaning is: Any of a group of compounds used as preservatives in pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and in the food industry.

You will find  any one or a combination of these –  ‎Methylparaben, proplyparaben, isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben, sodium butylparaben– on various labels.

When I mentioned parabens previously, I received some angry messages insisting that parabens in small doses is okay and that parabens are found in blueberries for goodness sakes! Feeling like an alarmist, I set out to discover the truth about parabens.

Yes, there are naturally occuring parabens in insects, fruits, vegetables.  Parabens in nature help fight fungus and bacteria, this is totally different than what is added to our cosmetics and skincare. Those are synthetically produced in a lab then added to beauty products. Let me repeat that: Parabens in nature are totally different than parabens made in a lab. Same idea but different in how they are produced.

I think this explains the paraben issue pretty well:

Parabens accidentally mimic estrogens chemical shape. The body then thinks it is interacting with estrogen. This alters the amount of testosterone and estrogen produced in the body. If this happens in large amounts over long periods of time it creates a hormonal imbalance.  
Hormonal imbalances have shown links with breast cancer and reproductive problems in men and women. The way in which this effects our DNA and human growth is still being studied, but it is controversial enough for many people in the US to have decided to stay away from parabens, and for many companies to create entire product lines which are “paraben free.” source

photo credit

For me, the concern over parabens is not a one time use and an immediate diagnosis of  breast cancer, the concern is a slow buildup from  using various products on a daily basis that will add up over the years. The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database  state parabens are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation.
According to Safe, ” A 2004 UK study detected traces of five parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied. This small study does not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, but it is important because it detected the presence of intact parabens – unaltered by the body’s metabolism – which is an indication of the chemicals’ ability to penetrate skin and remain in breast tissue.”
And reading this fact is enough to send me running for a new deodorant:  Propylparaben was found in the highest concentration in the underarm area, where underarm deodorants are most used and breast cancer prevalence is at its highest. (source)
There is enough information on this topic to keep us reading for days and days but let’s stop here.  As with everything else, you need to read up on the facts and decide for yourself. Poke around enough and you will find opposing views that parabens do not have anything to do with breast cancer and they are used in tiny amounts to give products a longer shelf life. I tend to believe the facts from credible sources and using common sense. 19 out of 20 breast cancer tumors had traces of parabens? No thank you! I’ll pass on the synthetic preservatives.
As for me, I rather not take that chance if I can help it. I can’t help but think there are cancer cells ready to sit up and strike if provoked (by parabens and other toxins). I’ll continue to do my best to eat healthy, use natural products and… skip the parabens.

1 thought on “Explaining the controversial ingredient: Parabens

Leave a Reply