PARABENS: Should you be concerned?
Are products containing parabens safe to use? Read this week’s blog to find out all about what they are and what health concerns they pose!
WHAT ARE PARABENS?
Parabens are a group of synthetic compounds used as preservatives in a wide range of beauty and personal care products.
They are used to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi, mold and other microbes in products. They are also used to prolong the shelf life of makeup, creams, lotions, etc.
These products contain biodegradable ingredients and are usually kept in bathrooms where it is humid and warm. This is the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Hence, why parabens are added to products that are typically stored in bathrooms.
Beauty and personal care products contain mixtures of different types of parabens. The most common types you will see on an ingredient label are butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropyl paraben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
HEALTH CONTROVERSIES AND PARABENS
Numerous household beauty and personal care products contain specific amounts of parabens. Over time, regular use can result in the build up of parabens in the body because they are easily absorbed through the skin.
Can trigger allergic reactions
Sensitivity to parabens can trigger irritation and contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis develops when skin shows allergic reactions to something that it comes in contact with.
Symptoms of contact dermatitis include itchiness, bumps, blisters, dry and scaly skin, swelling, tenderness and sometimes even a burning sensation.
In some cases, allergic reactions are seen as worsening of an existing treated rash or pre-existing skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema or contact dermatitis.
Topical hydrocortisone creams or antibiotic ointments do not use parabens to prolong their shelf lives so are safe to use when an allergic flare up occurs.
Although allergic hypersensitivity to parabens is relatively low in relation to their presence in a wide range of products, regular use of small amounts of parabens in cosmetics, skincare and personal care products may result in sensitivity.
Increase estrogen production
Estrogen is a hormone that helps develop and maintain the reproductive system and characteristics of females, for example, the breasts.
Parabens imitate estrogen when they attach to estrogen receptors on cells. As a result, the estrogen level in the body is disrupted.
Over time, this certainly could cause health issues in consumers. Increased estrogen levels could lead to estrogen-positive breast cancer and male fertility issues.
Disrupt the endocrine system
The endocrine system produces hormones that control your moods, growth, development, metabolism and reproduction. It also controls how your hormones are released into your bloodstream, moving to the different parts of your body.
Parabens disrupt the proper functioning of the endocrine system, which may lead to various health concerns such as acne, growth of breasts in males and other developmental and neurological disorders.
Other research has found that parabens can alter levels of thyroid hormones that could also lead to other health concerns such as hypothyroidism.
In one study, traces of parabens absorbed by the body were found in urine samples of women. This was linked to a decline in fertility because of the connection to a decreased length in the menstrual cycle.
Traces of parabens found in the urine of pregnant women were also associated with higher chances of pre-term birth and low birth weight.
ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES FOR PARABENS?
There are a few oils, plant extracts and mild chemicals that are alternatives to parabens.
It is the most commonly used paraben substitute. It has an active antimicrobial property that is non-irritating and non-sensitizing.
It is an effective preservative and inexpensive to produce as it is derived from ether alcohol. However, it does not entirely prevent the growth of fungus and molds like parabens.
Potassium sorbate and diazolidinyl urea, which have antifungal properties, are often combined with phenoxyethanol.
Australian Certified Organic approved potassium sorbate can be used in organic skincare products. It is harmless and not irritating.
It is an artificially produced salt from sorbic acid and potassium hydroxide.
It curbs yeast, fungus, molds and only some bacteria, so it is best combined with phenoxyethanol.
Plants and grains are common sources of ethylhexylglycerin, which is a common substitute for parabens. It also acts as a skin conditioning agent.
It is a deodorizer and is often used in topical creams to treat eczema. It effectively kills microorganisms by breaking down their cellular walls.
There are only a few natural preservatives. These natural preservatives include grapeseed, rosemary, neem extracts, as well as thyme, oregano and tea tree essential oils.
They are non-toxic and only have limited anti-bacterial properties as they only protect against some strains of bacteria and rancidity.
Most oils are only for short term use. They are only potent for a maximum of one year since they easily break down.
The downside of using essential oils is that they can be more expensive. High concentrations of essential oils are needed to preserve a product effectively.
Parabens are still widely used in many beauty products although there are substitute preservatives. There is much debate surrounding the adverse health effects of human-made parabens. There is a strong need for more extensive scientific research to validate the arguments one way or the other.
Meanwhile, fortunately there are lots of cosmetics, skincare and personal care products that are paraben-free.
So knowing what you know now, why take the risk? Make a smart choice. Use paraben-free products.
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HAVE YOU EVER TRIED USING PARABEN-FREE SKINCARE PRODUCTS? WERE THEY GENTLE ON YOUR SKIN? LET’S TALK IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.