There is so much information here on the internet. You could literally prove either side of any argument by selecting the right sources. Who do you believe? It’s hard to know. Some writers have good intentions but are misguided. And others have an agenda, perhaps because they want their side to look good. It can be hard to weed through all the information to get to the truth.
Parabens fit easily into this category. Parabens are used as preservatives in many skin care products, shampoos, deodorants and antiperspirants, and more. It makes sense that you don’t want bacteria to grow in your lotion, right?
What, exactly, are parabens?
Chemically speaking, parabens are esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid.
On the ingredient label, you’ll find them listed as ethylparaben or butylparaben or methylparaben or propylparaben. Methylparaben & propylparaben are the most common ones and can be found in over ten thousand (10,000) products in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database.
Parabens are derived from – Sorry this is where it gets confusing:
According to Wikipedia:
All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced, although some are identical to those found in nature. They are produced by the esterification of para-hydroxybenzoic acid with the appropriate alcohol, such as methanol, ethanol, or n-propanol.
According to Cosmetics Info:
Parabens are derived from para-hydroxybenzoic acid, or PHBA, which occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables.
That’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo, and they essentially say the same thing, although Cosmetics Info leads you to believe that perhaps the parabens used in cosmetics are derived from fruits and vegetables. But they’re not. They’re derived from a chemical reaction.
And, even though the PHBA is found in plants, y’all should know by now how I feel about taking products out of their natural environment. I’ve touched on it before. A good example is the sugar in an apple or other fruit. When consumed with the apple, the sugar isn’t really a problem. The fiber slows the sugar down in its transit through the body. But, taken alone as apple juice, that sugar can wreak havoc on your body.
Do parabens cause cancer?
Maybe, maybe not.
According to a Real Simple article on parabens, parabens were classified as xenoestrogens in the 1990s because of their ability to mimic estrogen. And a cancer researcher found parabens in tumor cells. This alone, doesn’t prove a relation between parabens and cancer. Also, no tests were done to determine if healthy cells also contained parabens. Still, like a puppy holding its favorite toy, many people hold on to the fact that a researcher linked parabens to cancer.
So, their role in cancer, if any, has not been proven so far.
Parabens as Xenoestrogens
The fact that parabens are classified as xenoestrogens raises some other questions. As xenoestrogens, parabens act like estrogens within the body. Hence, they will increase the total amount of estrogen. According to a Women In Balance article on xenoestrogens:
Build up of xenoestrogens have (sic) been indicated in many conditions including: breast, prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages and diabetes.
That build up is based upon ALL of the chemicals that are xenoestrogens. A list is included in the “Women In Balance” article mentioned above. Taken together, exposure to xenoestrogens can be quite high.
Are parabens safe?
According to the FDA, there is no reason to be concerned with parabens. Which doesn’t say that they have been tested and proven safe. Nor does it rule out a future finding that they are harmful. They believe that they are safe when used at low levels.
Checking the EWG’s website, parabens are rated in the moderate toxicity range. You may want to reconsider their use, especially if you experience skin sensitivity to make up and skin care products.
What are considered low levels? How do we know our level of exposure? Keep in mind that our skin is our largest organ. Applying lotion to your entire body allows for a large area exposed to whatever is in that lotion.
Should you use products that contain parabens? That’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves and for our children.
So, tell me in the comments …
Are you concerned about you and your family’s exposure to parabens?