Back to Basics: What in the World are Parabens?

Parabens can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, cleansing gels, personal lubricants, topical pharmaceuticals and toothpaste. Parabens are synthetic chemicals that are used in many products as a preservative and have been linked to breast cancer, tumors and more.

For most people who purchase "organic" products for their hair and skin, they probably won't realize that there are parabens included in many of their favorite shampoos and conditioners as well.

It has been argued if parabens are actually harmful to the body because they are a synthetic chemical. For one, parabens can mimic the estrogen hormone, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers, and have been found in high concentrations in breast cancer tissues. Parabens are therefore implicated in driving estrogenic activity that can induce breast cancer. They are banned in the EU and recognized as a known carcinogen there, but they are still legal in the United States thanks to the FDA.

In the July 2002 issue of the Archives of Toxicology , Dr. S. Oishi of the Department of Toxicology, Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health reported that exposure of newborn male mammals to butyl-paraben, “adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.”

There are many organic and all natural foods that contain no preservatives. Read the labels on your organic honey, maple syrup, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, raisins, peanut butter and wine. These foods are considered by the FDA to be "self-preserving" and contain no preservatives. This means that because of certain inherent qualities, these foods are naturally stable and not overly susceptible to contamination from bacteria.

Many of these foods are used in certified organic products to preserve the shelf-life and potency of the product. Honey, olive oil and vinegar are among the more commonly used organic preservatives.

Again, I'm not a licensed cosmetologist or doctor but based on the research, parabens are something I will definitely try to stay away from. Although parabens are a synthetic chemical, their effects on the body and hormones are enough for me to keep away.

It's always important to stay educated about the ingredients that you use in, and on your body. If you're unsure about something, research it. Google and Yahoo are commonly used search tools. When in doubt, leave it out. Your hair, skin and body will thank you for it. Always, always read the labels on any product before purchasing. Even on "organic" products, there may some form of parabens in the bottle so be sure to read the labels. If the word "paraben" is in the ingredient, you may want to think twice about purchasing. I know I do but hey, that's my preference.

Some of the Most Commonly Used Parabens found in hair, skin and beauty products include:
  • Methylparabens
  • Ethylparabens
  • Propylparabens
  • Isobutylparabens
  • Butylparabens
  • Benzylparabens

*Originally posted August 31, 2010
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