Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Poisonous Parabens

What they are:

Parabens are chemical preservatives that are added to cosmetics (personal care products), drugs, and food. They are incredibly common and can be found in most personal care products including toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, shampoo, makeup, shave cream, and many more.

Why they should be avoided:

Parabens are also known as a “gender bender” because they mimic the hormone estrogen. They have been identified as being disruptive of normal hormone functions and exposure to parabens has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer according to the Journal of Applied Toxicology. Parabens have been found in breast tumors and are commonly found in most people’s blood when tested. Parabens have also been linked to allergic reactions and common dermatitis. They are also especially dangerous for unborn babies and small children because they are very sensitive to hormones and anything that disrupts normal hormone function.

Photo courtesy of CBS News
As with all things we put on our skin, parabens are absorbed into our bodies and end up traveling through our blood stream. It is incredibly important to consider what you are putting on your body because it ends up in your body. If you read the ingredients list and think “I would not eat all of these chemicals” then why would you put it all over your hair and skin where it will end up in your body anyways?

If you are wondering how it is possible that such a dangerous chemical could be used so widely and without anyone stopping it, the FDA makes it pretty clear:

“The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. In general, cosmetic manufacturers may use any ingredients they choose, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation.”

Then who is looking out for me?

It is time to be an active consumer and help your friends and family get informed and protect themselves. See what you are using now and before buying a product be sure the check the ingredients label and be sure there are no parabens listed on it, including methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.

Photo courtesy of But a Whisper

Watch out! When you see “fragrance” as an ingredient it can (and often does) contain parabens. As part of a protection for companies’ signature scents, the ingredients do not have to be listed, even if they could contain chemicals that can harm consumers.

Want to know more? Check out

Books: The Big Green Purse by Diane Maceachern and Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano
websites: The Good Human, FDA, Breast Cancer Fund, Journal of Applied Toxicology and Environmental Working Group

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