Parabens are widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. They are used to prolong the shelf life of cosmetics and as a base for many medications. The most widely used parabens are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben and benzylparaben. There is also a group of paraben “sodium salts” (Sodium Methylparaben, Sodium Ethylparaben, Sodium Propylparaben, etc.) that are used for the same purpose.
Pick up almost any shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, lotion, moisturizer, shaving gel, personal lubricant, spray tanner, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, fabric softeners and even children’s skin products and you’ll find some sort of paraben in it. They’re even used as an additive to some packaged foods. They’re efficacy as preservatives, in combination with their low cost, explains why parabens are so commonplace.
Since most parabens are rubbed onto the skin, all types of skin problems can occur. For years parabens have been known to cause skin irritation, rash, contact dermatitis, eczema, and allergic skin reactions. In laboratory testing parabens have been found to mimic the hormone estrogen. It is a known medical fact that over-production of estrogen stimulates fibroids, uterine cysts, polyps and breast cancer. Parabens bind to the body’s estrogen receptors, encouraging the growth of cancer cells. When you use a product such as shampoo or lotion, about 3/5 of that product could end up in your body. Anything that enters the body through the skin may be as high as 10 times the concentration of an oral dose. Scientists in the UK analyzed 20 breast tumors and found high concentrations of parabens in 18 samples!
Some people believe that parabens contained in shampoos and cosmetics have the potential to actually make its users gain weight. Well, your endocrine system (i.e., hypothalamus, ovaries and thyroid), regulates your insulin production, which balances your glucose “sugar” levels and balances your weight. Parabens seem to disrupt the endocrine system and have the ability to actually lead to weight gain. easily absorbed through both the skin as well as through the gastrointestinal tract.
Some parabens are found naturally in plant sources. For example, methylparaben is found in blueberries, where it acts as an antimicrobial agent. However, when parabens are eaten, they are metabolized and lose the ester group, making them less strongly estrogen-mimicking. All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced however, although some are identical to those found in nature.
- Read the labels of products before you buy them, and if they have parabens in them, don’t buy them.