Parabens: the ubiquitous chemical preservative that we’ve been all told to avoid. Parabens are everywhere, from lotions and cosmetics to tortillas and muffins. Are they safe for our bodies? Or are they dangerous and toxic.
Numerous studies have proposed a link between parabens and breast cancer. Unfortunately, these findings have been inconclusive. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the amount of parabens found in our foods and cosmetics is not enough to cause us harm. Based on their review of the available research, we should not avoid products that contain parabens. However, you should exercise your own judgment when deciding whether or not to use such products.
Why You May Want to Avoid Parabens
One of the main propylparaben dangers cited by dermatologists and skin care specialists is the chemical’s ability to mimic estrogen in the human body, causing an over-abundance of this hormone. This could potentially lead to reproductive issues and increase the growth rate of breast tumors. A 2004 investigation detected traces of parabens in the breast tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied.
In 2015, a group of scientists from UC Berkeley found that parabens can enhance the growth of breast cancer cells. Parabens have the ability to turn on genes that cause cancer cells to proliferate.
Paraben’s estrogen-like properties can have negative effects on men as well. When studied in male rats, parabens were shown to reduce sperm production and serum testosterone levels.
Benefits of Parabens
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), paraben are undeserving of their negative reputation. Parabens are derived from para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA) that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, cherries, carrots, blueberries and onions. They have been used in foods, medications, and cosmetics for over 100 years.
Certain parabens are found in numerous plants around the world. This finding makes perfect sense of course, as plants have evolved anti-microbial agents in order to protect them from fungal or microbial attack. Plants which are particularly well-known for their naturally occurring parabens include blueberries, mango, barley, strawberries, black currants, peaches, carrots, onions, cocoa beans, and vanilla. Parabens are ubiquitous; according to research, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (which forms the basis of parabens) is the most widely distributed aromatic organic acid in the vegetable kingdom.
Parabens are typically added to cosmetics as a preservative. They can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Parabens can extend a product’s shelf life, making it safer for long-term use. Some of the more common parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.
Make an active effort to avoid applying paraben-containing products to the eye area. This includes mascaras, eye shadows, etc. This is because the eye area can readily absorb chemicals. My previous post discusses the lacrimal sac and goes into detail about the delicacy of the eye area and how to avoid negatively impacting your eyes with makeup.
Quick Guide | 7 Mascaras Containing Parabens
Quick Guide | 7 Mascaras Not Containing Parabens
Quick Guide | 7 Food and Drinks Containing Parabens
If you’d like to research a bit more about parabens you can read the CDC Fact Sheet, along with The Derm Review and this blog.
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