So what are Parabens and why have they become a health concern?
Stories about parabens in cosmetics being harmful to health have come into the spotlight more and more recently, and we really should take heed of the warnings. Parabens are a chemical compound of para-hydroxybenzoic acid. They occur naturally in foods such as blueberries, prunes and cinnamon however the parabens you find in cosmetics are synthetic. You may be familiar with terms such as butylparaben, propylparaben and ethylparabens – these are common preservatives found in everyday products such as the following:
– face cream
– bubble bath
Take a look at the ingredients in some of these products at home – an estimated 90% of cosmetic products include parabens.
Products containing synthetic parabens such as face / body creams and sun lotions are used more frequently and therefore increase the amount of parabens being released into the blood. Parabens are easily absorbed as they have lipophilic properties, enabling them to gather in fatty tissue, e.g. breast tissue. There has been widespread debate over the alleged link between parabens and breast cancer, this has yet to be validated.
However, Dr. Elizabeth Smith has written that “It is a known medical fact that estrogen stimulates breast cancer” and that “anything absorbed through the skin may be as high as 10 times the concentration of an oral dose.” (Think about how nicotine and birth control/hormone patches work-the chemicals are absorbed through the skin!). She also reported that, in one study, a paraben was injected under the skin and was found to have an “estrogenic response on uterine tissues.” Scientists observing these harmful effects on the uterus remarked that “it is suggested that the safety in use of these chemicals should be reassessed.”
It has also been suggested that parabens act like oestrogen (hormone largely found in women which is essential to the menstrual cycle), disrupting the natural process. Allegedly certain concerns in men such as a low sperm count alongside a decrease in testosterone can be directly related to the intake of parabens.
There has been a massive public and scientific interest about parabens. Yet despite a large number of clinical trials to determine the toxicity of parabens, to date, there is still no conclusion.
Ideally you should opt for quality, natural skincare brands that provide products FREE from parabens, artificial colours and synthetic fragrances for your peace of mind.