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Parabens - What Are They and Are They Dangerous?

by Kate Beard |

Paraben Free.

You know you should buy paraben free products but do you know why? Let's take an indepth look at what they are and exactly why parabens should be avoided.
Parabens are an inexpensive preservative that are present in the majority of our beauty products. The ingredients found in most beauty products are biodegradable - the addition of parabens adds to a product's shelf life. The most common products are shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, creams and lotions and even scrubs. It is estimated that up to 85% of beauty products contain parabens. They prevent the formation of mold and bacteria which can obviously be damaging to you. While this bacteria and mold can be damaging to our bodies, the potential dangers of parabens are still being evaluated.
girl applying honey to her face

Hormonal Disruptions

Parabens have been shown to create hormonal disruptions which can create fertility problems, damage reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes and even linked to cancer. Parabens mimic the hormone estrogen which can cause problems to our endocrine system (our body's hormonal system in which our glands produce the hormones that regulate metabolism, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, mood and much more). Continued exposure to estrogen and synthetic chemicals may play a role in increasing breast cell division. This increased cell division may be a factor in breast cancer.

In a study carried out at the University of Reading (UK) researchers analyzed the breast tissue of 40 women who had had a mastectomy due to breast cancer. The analysis was conducted on the breast tissue. Researchers identified 5 different parabens (yes, there are many different parabens and each has it's own name to watch for on ingredient lists). The study was conducted by analyzing this breast tissue and seeing if any parabens were present.

The results were shocking - parabens were detected in 99% of the samples... 99 PERCENT! And to make things even scarier - in 60% of the tissue samples they found traces of all 5 parabens!
While the researchers pointed out that the study does not conclusively link parabens to breast cancer, it is unsettling that it was present in such a broad sample.

Early Puberty in Both Boys and Girls

boy and girl sitting in the fall leaves

Parabens have also been linked to early puberty both in both girls and boys. Their mimicking of other hormones causes problems in the endocrine system creates disturbances in adolescent boys and girls.
I think we can all agree that over the past few decades puberty hits younger and younger girls. They are developing breasts and starting to menstruate at a much younger age as compared with just 30 years ago. For boys, this hormonal imbalance can lead to testicular enlargement and even breast development!

Low Sperm Count

The problem of parabens is not isolated only to women. It has been shown that these hormonal disruptions have also had an effect on the male reproductive system. In a recent study, male rats were given different levels of parabens and then their sperm count was monitored. The higher level of paraben they received, the lower their sperm count.

Parabens are Everywhere

The main problem with parabens is the accumulation  of its use. It is practically in EVERYTHING we put on our skin - toothpaste, deodorant, skin creams, shampoo and the list goes on and on. We just layer it on throughout the day. Our bodies cannot metabolize fast enough and it ends up being stored. It is believed that individual parabens are eliminated quickly from the body there is little research showing just what the accumulation effect is.  It is estimated that the average woman applies over 500 chemicals to her body EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Unfortunately most of these chemicals are innocent until proven guilty. They are not strongly regulated and they are permitted until a risk is proven - in my humble opinion everything about this is backwards.
When I first started preparing scrubs I spent about 1 year researching natural preservatives to put in my scrubs. Obviously, it was extremely important to find something that would work like parabens - I needed to make sure mold and bacteria could not form in the scrubs. The cycle was always the same - I would find a preservative endorsed by leading natural beauty bibles, I would analyze how to use it, seek out reviews, side effects and possible risks... and then, I would inevitably stumble onto the phrase 'has not been linked to cancer'. This is not the statement I wanted to make to my customers - not been linked to cancer YET was always my first thought. And these were products endorsed by leading organic beauty experts and agencies. I refused to bend.
Clean Beauty Swiss scrubs are made without ANY synthetic preservatives - none. Nothing. Our scrubs do not need them - they are already full of ingredients which are natural preservatives - sugar and salt above all. Sugar and salt are both antibacterial and antimicrobial. As is coconut oil, ground coffee, cinnamon... and this list goes on. Often people ask me if my scrubs have a shorter shelf life, the answer is not at all.  Our scrubs last as long as any other product with synthetic preservatives. By using a Clean Beauty Swiss natural scrub, you eliminate the need for creams and lotions after your shower - fewer chemicals to use on your skin.

Shop Scrubs Now

So, in conclusion, while consumer safety administrations, such as the CDC in the United States, as well as cosmetics producers claim that parabens are used in such small quantities that they are not considered dangerous or even harmful, research still needs to be done on the accumulated risk - we are not only using 1 products a day with scarce levels of parabens. As stated above, the average woman puts over 500 chemicals on her body each and every single day. Over 60% of what we put on our skin gets absorbed into our bloodstream, it's important to make informed choices about what we put on our skin.

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