Should I care about Parabens?

When I do some “Ethical ” shopping on-line, especially for make up and toiletries, I always see the label “paraben free” and think “ohhhhhhhhhhh, that sounds good!” But, I admit I have no idea what a paraben is and why it matters anyway. So I thought I’d collate the headline “facts” or at least the big opinions out there. Another dummies guide…

 

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What are Parabens?

  • For the last 70 years parabens have been used as preserving chemicals in toiletries and make-up and in most products you find in a steamy bathroom. They’re added to stop things going mouldy.
  • They are hard to spot on an ingredients list. The common names end in “-paraben” but watch out for synonyms. I get the impression pharmaceutical companies might be trying to hide them? If my A-level chemistry serves me correctly any ingredient containing the letters “benz” or talking about “esters” is likely to be a paraben in disguise.

Why Should I Care?

Some folk question if it’s a good idea to cover our bodies in parabens. They are known to be absorbed into the body. Parabens are a little like oestrogen hormone and increasing oestrogen in our bodies might have negative effects including…

  • increased risk of breast cancer (in men as well!)
  • lower sperm count and other fertility issues

 

Why Shouldn’t I Care?

  • There is no scientific evidence parabens in cosmetics cause a problem.
  • Parabens have passed all the necessary safety checks needed by the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Only very small amounts are found in the our cosmetics so the level of paraben exposure would not be significant enough to cause a problem.

 

My Feelings

It’s impossible to know if parabens are as bad as people say. There is a lack of scientific evidence but then there is a lack of scientific evidence for a lot of things we take for granted! Doing proper randomised control trials involving people is very difficult and often limited by ethics.

Generally in life, I tend to air on the side of caution. I wear a helmet when I ride a bike and don’t use my phone when driving. But I do understand the flip side. I’ll happily drink a few glasses of wine at the weekend and if I was hit by a bus tomorrow I’d probably prefer to be wearing deodorant when they haul me off to A & E.

I think aiming for paraben reduction in my life is probably achievable. Especially in the area of kids who will be most susceptible if there is a problem.

On the plus side, I don’t feel quite so silly now I vaguely know what it is I’m avoiding:-)

Sources
http://www.breastcanceruk.org.uk/science/bcuk-fact-sheet-parabens/
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/cancer-controversies/cosmetics-and-toiletries#Cosmetics4
http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-looks/beauty/parabens-what-are-they-and-are-they-really-that-bad/
http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2015/07/myth-natural-parabens
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