What are Parabens?
Parabens are the most commonly used synthetic chemical preservative in cosmetic products, but can also be found in the foods we eat and the pharmaceutical drugs we ingest. Found in everything from shampoos, shaving gels, food additives, and moisturizers, parabens are an ever-present chemical compound that may pose an overall health risk to those who use products containing them. Though they may not be directly labeled as “parabens” on the list of ingredients found in a cosmetic product, they may be disguised as “methylparaben”, “propylparaben”, or “butylparaben”.
It is typical for more than one paraben to be used within a single product in order to maximize the shelf-life of the product and protect against microorganisms, such as different types of bacteria or fungi.
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding parabens and their use, particularly in skin care products. You may find it difficult to locate a cosmetic or a moisturizer, such as an anti wrinkle cream, that does not include a combination of parabens on its list of ingredients. As the use of parabens is ubiquitous, especially in anti-aging skin care products, you may be concerned about your current use of skin care products and creams and wonder whether or not they contain parabens. It is important to note that up to 90 percent of all the products we use contain some form or combination of parabens. As a result, this makes them rather difficult to avoid. Since the safety of parabens is highly debated, with some experts claiming that they are not harmful and others deeming them unsafe, it can be quite confusing for the consumer who has not been educated about the use and consumption of parabens to make a decision regarding their safety. Hopefully this article will help you to understand parabens in greater detail, why they are so commonly utilized in skin care products, and the potential dangers of using products that contain this chemical preservative.
Why Are Parabens Used?
As previously mentioned, parabens are chemical preservatives that are commonly used to increase the shelf-life of products and to deter microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, from penetrating and spoiling the product. This factor, coupled with their wide availability and relatively low cost to manufacture, makes parabens an attractive option for large cosmetic companies who want to maintain their products’ integrity. For example, the use of parabens in skin care products allows the survival of these products for several months, or even years, because parabens protect the product against microbial growth. This means that you could purchase an anti-aging skin care product today, and have it last for up to 12 months (depending on the frequency of usage) in your bathroom cabinet. The very notion of a product’s survival for this great length of time has provoked both consumers and public health organizations to question their overall safety for use and consumption. For example, studies have shown that when anti-wrinkle cream is used, parabens enter the body via the skin and are then absorbed by the body into the bloodstream. In fact, it has been found that the body can potentially absorb up to five pounds of chemicals found in cosmetics each year! While the mainstream cosmetic industry utilizes parabens and claims that they are not harmful to the human body, independent research finds otherwise. Public interest organizations believe that further research is warranted in order to arrive at such a conclusion, and operate according to the precautionary principle, which states that in the absence of scientific proof or consensus that parabens are in fact safe, precautionary measures should be taken. In other words, it is better to be safe than sorry. These public interest organizations strongly believe that the widespread use of parabens within the cosmetic industry is largely due to their relatively low cost to manufacture, and the fact that they preserve and maintain the integrity of their product. If this is true, then the large cosmetic corporations who claim “you’re worth it” are benefitting, while the health and safety of the individuals using these products is simultaneously being compromised.
The Paraben Controversy
So how do parabens adversely affect human health? Where does all of this controversy stem from? We know that studies have shown that parabens accumulate in bodily tissue over time, since they enter the bloodstream once applied to the skin. We also know that when any chemical is absorbed into the bloodstream versus being taken orally, the human body can receive up to ten times higher concentrations of that chemical. Parabens have been shown to cause allergic reactions, such as rashes, particularly in those with sensitive skin. However, parabens have been linked to much more severe outcomes in the human body, including endocrine disruptions, which contribute to certain types of cancers, the early onset of puberty, and decreased sperm production in males.
1.) Endocrine Disruptions and Breast Cancer:
Parabens have been shown to mimic the body’s naturally-occurring hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, through the application of paraben-containing products such as a skin care cream that is consistently rubbed onto your body. The result is an endocrine disruption, which interferes with the normal functioning of your body’s endocrine system. A rather disturbing finding regarding parabens is their correlation to the development of breast cancer in women. It has been found that low concentrations of parabens are present in breast cancer tumors, sparking controversy about the relationship between the use of paraben-containing products and the development of certain types of cancers. It is a well-known fact that estrogen plays a role in breast cancer, and therefore a chemical ingredient which mimics estrogen (paraben) has recently come under careful scrutiny in order to determine its role in the development and progression of breast cancer. A longitudinal study by a reputable university found that high levels of paraben exposure over a lifetime can increase a women’s risk for developing breast cancer. Since estrogen is already known to contribute to breast cancer development, synthetic chemicals that mimic estrogen may be particularly dangerous, due to the body’s inability to break down synthetic estrogen versus naturally-produced estrogen. Synthetic estrogen can accumulate in the body’s fat cells and tissues, which can in turn contribute to the development of breast cancer.
2.) Early Onset of Puberty:
Another correlation that has been found regarding parabens is the relationships between their usage and the early onset of puberty in young girls and boys. Since parabens mimic naturally-occurring hormones like estrogen and testosterone, they have the potential to induce an earlier than usual onset of puberty – a growing trend that is becoming more prevalent nowadays. For instance, endocrinologists have noticed that the average age of puberty has decreased in recent decades, with girls as young as eight years old developing breasts and young boys experiencing testicular enlargement and pubic hair growth earlier than ever before.
3.) Adverse Effects on the Male Reproductive System:
Since testosterone is affected by the presence of parabens which mimic this natural hormone, a relationship has been established between the use of paraben-containing products and an overall decrease in sperm production in males. Studies have shown that exposure to parabens adversely affect the male reproductive system by interfering with testosterone levels, thus lowering the sperm count in men.
Overall, concerns regarding the many adverse effects of endocrine disruptions have led both consumers and large cosmetic companies to explore paraben-free, natural alternatives. Lashem’s Picture Perfect Anti-Wrinkle Cream is known for its paraben-free formula, and is made from all-natural ingredients so that you can ensure you’re giving your skin the best treatment possible. Remember, your skin is the largest bodily organ, which means that your overall health and safety is significantly affected by what you are putting on it. Wouldn’t you rather use a skin care product that is as fresh as the food you consume versus a skin cream that is several years old? While there still exists large cosmetic companies who deem parabens as safe and utilize them in many of their products, it is important to keep in mind that products in the past that have been deemed “safe” by reputable organizations have later been found to be harmful to human health. Why take the risk when there are plenty of natural, organic alternatives available? If you want to avoid the potential dangers of parabens, be sure to carefully examine the ingredient listings on each product you purchase, and ensure you are buying all-natural and organic products. If your concern is cost and shelf-life, you should know that the self-preserving, 100% organic and natural face creams that are available from Lashem have an equally long shelf-life as a paraben-containing counterpart. While it may be tempting to buy mainstream cosmetic products due to their relatively low purchase price, taking the necessary time to search for products containing natural ingredients and spending a little extra money will avoid any potentially harmful health effects while simultaneously guaranteeing you healthy, beautiful skin!