So you’ve heard it all before: Avoid parabens because they’re toxic and bad for your health. Is it really true?
The fuss around parabens may seem like the latest trend, but the threat from this synthetic ingredient is worse than you may think. To put it simply, parabens are preservatives used in a variety of cosmetic and personal-care products to help them last longer. They go by many different names, including butyl, isobutyl, isoprobyl, methyl, and propyl parabens.
Sure, they’re common, but are parabens really that dangerous? According to our “Ingredients to Avoid” list, a study in the 2004 Journal of Toxicology found that “…18 out of 20 breast tumors contained significant concentrations of parabens.” Study researchers added that almost all of the tumors tested originated from products applied to the skin (like deodorants, creams, or body sprays). Although further research needs to be done before the relationship between parabens and cancer becomes clear, experts agree that simply knowing “parabens can be absorbed through the skin and retained in breast tissue” is a step in the right direction. Despite the cosmetic industry’s continual stance that chemicals (like parabens) are not absorbed into the body, scientist Dr. Philippa Darbre explains, “[This study] demonstrates that if people are exposed to these chemicals…then the chemicals will accumulate in their bodies.”
“Think Before Your Pink” details that one of the primary dangers behind paraben ingredients is their ability to disrupt normal hormone function (by adding outside estrogen into the body). Additionally, because we use many products a day, the accumulative affect of toxic ingredients may amplify the dangers of parabens even more. How many of us are really exposed to high levels of parabens in our daily lives? According to the Breast Cancer Fund, “Parabens have been found in almost all urine samples examined from demographically diverse samples of U.S. adults.” Sadly, parabens find a way of sneaking into almost every one of the products we use on a daily basis. Ann estimated 90% of beauty and cleansing products contain this toxic ingredient.
The best way to take control of your health and protect yourself against parabens is to know the ingredients in your favorite products. Super sleuth and savvy blogger The Paraben Princess explains her process: “When I’m looking for a new product, I check for the list of ingredients online. It’s easier to read labels online than in the store. I start at the bottom and read my way up. The bad stuff is usually the preservative and will be near the end. If there is an ingredient I don’t recognize, I look it up on the Cosmetics Safety Database.” (Click here to read our post on reading product labels). Fortunately, there are a wide array of organic and toxin-free companies that specialize in paraben-free products (including Afterglow Cosmetics and Aubrey Organics). If you want to know more, research safe brands at websites like Skin Deep, or check out a complete list of paraben-free alternatives here.
* What Do You Think: Do you take the studies about paraben ingredients and cancer seriously? What are your tips or tricks for choosing paraben-free products?
Photo courtesy of Snap Village
I came across your website about parabens. Just to get the word out, there is a brand on the internet called Modere that has skin, hair, and household products that are toxic free and paraben free. I have tried this brand and have been pleased at the quality and affordability. Just sharing the word! Check it out!
The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has been an excellent resource for me. I have found that products I assumed were safe actually were not, and that some products I was skeptical of were actually very safe.
I now try my best to avoid parabens and other toxic ingredients in all the products that I use on a daily basis. I do have a question though… if the majority of products used are free from these types of ingredients, should occasional exposure raise concern? In other words, is it the cumulative effect that is most concerning, or is any any exposure harmful?
For example, my favorite vegan, cruelty-free foundation (Face Atelier Ultra Foundation) contains parabens, and I have not yet found a good alternative. So should I not worry about this one product, provided that all my other products are free of parabens and toxic ingredients? Should I use it only for special occasions to minimize exposure? Or should I completely avoid all such products to best protect my health?
Thanks for your thoughts!
hi, i just bought a lotion and upon qeading this,stumbled on parabens.shld i use it or discard it?
Hi, Calvin. Since it’s difficult to study the effect of parabens in humans, we still don’t know what levels may cause health problems. I don’t think you have to throw the product away—to safeguard your skin, you may just want to watch out for this ingredient in the future.
What is the BEST line of cosmetics, bath care and cleaning products?
I am starting to go in the direction of clean products.
At chains like Target and Walmart there are only 2.
They are method and 2nd generation.
Please advise. Thank you!
Hi, Margaret! Thanks for asking! Actually I don’t know if I can tell you the “best” brand as there are several companies out there that are making safe products with nourishing ingredients. Instead, please read my post on “where to shop” for safe brands (http://cincovidas.com/where-do-i-find-safer-products/) and my post on the O&N Collective (http://cincovidas.com/one-of-my-top-picks-of-where-to-find-safer-products-o-n-collective/) . I think most of the products you find in these locations are likely to be much better than anything you’d find in the regular department store. Good luck!
The debate goes on. Well, here is the facts. Parabens are either OK or they are not. Well, I choose to err on the side of caution, and fine companies offering Paraben free skin care and other personal care products. There are out there, and readily available. So, why not, be safe.
I really enjoyed the article posted about regarding harmful ingredients in personal care products. It was very informative, and I believe you are absolutely correct about the negative impacts that these chemicals have on our bodies. I have discovered several amazing reports to validate your position, and I think you would find the information fascinating. I would love to discuss this further with you. Please email me at your earliest convenience at [email protected]. One report in particular is very serious in nature and was documented on CNN. I’ll send you a link.
Hi Taylor, thanks for the comment and the support. I’m sorry to be getting back to you so late. Thank you for your willingness to share further information. – Britta