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Around here you know how much we’re in love with all natural, so-safe-you-can-eat-it skincare products. Ingredients like parabens don’t fit in with this philosophy, but how much do you really know about parabens? Are they really that bad, and why should they be avoided?
If you’ve been around here very long, then I can assume you’re also a fan of natural skincare. Sometimes however sneaky things can hide in products. And while you know if you can’t pronounce it you should probably avoid it, it’s helpful to know why. So, what’s wrong with parabens, anyway!??
What are parabens?
Parabens come in many different forms. You can find methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, and propylparaben to name a few. They are used as broad spectrum preservatives in many personal care items and even medications like antibiotics, sleeping aids, and Tylenol.
Since parabens have been around since the 1920’s and are used in so many personal care items, people naturally assume they’re safe. Even a recent review from the FDA and American Cancer society have deemed them to be not harmful. However, because of strong internal monetary ties with pharmaceutical companies, any review from the FDA and American Cancer Society has to be taken with a grain of salt…or a whole salt shaker.
Where can you find them?
Parabens can hide in everything from shampoo, to sunscreen, to your food. A search of paraben containing products on the Environmental Working Group database reveals that over 10,000 personal care products contain methylparaben alone! That’s not even counting the nearly 10,000 products with propylparaben and the nearly 4,000 with ethylparaben.
The majority of paraben containing products are makeup like eye shadow, eye liner, foundation, and lipstick. Sometimes a product will advertise natural ingredients on the front, but it’s still hiding nasty bad for you stuff in the ingredients label.
The popular makeup brand Cover Girl has a “Clean” foundation powder for sensitive skin. You would assume if they’ve cleaned things up it wouldn’t have parabens in it, yet it has both propylparaben and methylparaben among all the other toxic ingredients.
Endocrine system disruptors
So if they’re so prolific in personal care products, why are parabens so bad? Research that was published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found parabens present in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer. Parabens were found in both the tumor and healthy breast tissue.
The scary thing here was that 7 of the women studied had never used deodorant or underarm products, yet there were still parabens present in the cancerous breast tissue. While I’m a little concerned that they’ve never used deodorant before, what’s worse is that it didn’t seem to matter as far as having the toxins in the tissue.
The study authors also pointed out that the area closest to the armpit, and coincidentally the underarm lymph nodes, is significantly more likely to house cancerous cells compared to other areas of the breast. This could be due to more products being applied to the area, but it could also be due to the lymph nodes becoming overtaxed from toxins as a whole.
The source of the parabens couldn’t be identified. Also, since these women were being treated for cancer, they were being subjected to conventional treatments like chemotherapy pills and other prescription drugs that could have been preserved with parabens.
A group of doctors from California took healthy breast tissue samples and exposed them to both methylparaben and BPA. They found that these healthy cells started behaving like cancerous cells once they were exposed to either of the toxins. As the cells evolved, they even blocked the cancer drugs from working.
This animal study also found that it negatively impacts testosterone levels and caused infertility. It wasn’t just large amounts of parabens that impacted the subjects though, the effects were seen at levels that are considered safe by both Europe and Japan.
Supporters of parabens claim that since no study has shown a definitive, direct causal link, that parabens should still be given the green light. There is enough evidence however that strongly indicates parabens are endocrine system disruptors and can mimic hormones in the body. Multiple parabens are used in just one product, and the impact of exposure from multiple products can compound the issue.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to wait around for a more definitive study. I’m staying away from parabens right now!
Head over to the Pronounce Skincare Shop where you find zero parabens in Scratch Mommy Founder Jess’s personal care products. From deodorants to makeup to lotions, you’ll love finding new organic *healthy* skincare solutions. Looking to DIY your own products? You’ll love the hundreds we feature here in our site.