Parabens are strong chemicals used as a synthetic preservative in numerous foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and personal care products. Some of the most commonly used parabens include Methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. The less common parabens, on the other hand, include isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and benzylparaben. These chemicals enter the body through the skin, and into the bloodstream. Some of the biggest dangers and complications caused by parabens include breast cancer, early puberty, decrease in testosterone, and negative affects on the male reproductive system.
Numerous studies conducted have shown that parabens mimic the female hormone, estrogen, and disrupt the body’s endocrine system. High lifelong exposure to estrogen can increase breast cancer risk. Estrogen, and synthetic chemicals that imitate estrogen, play a part in stimulating the division of breast cells, and affect other hormones that stimulate cell division. The body does not easily break down synthetic estrogen, and it accumulates in fat cells, including breast tissue.
According to a report by the New York Times, parabens can lead to early puberty in adolescent boys and girls. The endocrine system releases hormones into the bloodstream and is involved in many functions relating to reproduction, digestion, metabolism, and waste elimination. All of which can be disrupted by parabens. It has been observed by endocrinologists that the average age of puberty has been decreasing in the past few decades and have seen girls as young as eight already experiencing changes in their bodies. These endocrine disrupters have shown to lead in breast development in young boys. Studies have also found parabens to adversely affect the male reproductive system and significantly decrease testosterone levels.
Now, you’re probably wondering why manufacturers would put such a dangerous chemical in their products, right? Well, the reason is purely due to cost. Parabens are very inexpensive, and extend the shelf life of products for 2 years, or even longer. Without some kind of preservative, the products would have to be refrigerated, but even then they still wouldn’t last for very long.
Luckily, though, there are in fact many safe, non-toxic preservatives out there that can easily substitute parabens. These include vitamin E, citric acid, grapefruit seed extract, Neem oil, rosemary oleoresin, and more. These are used to preserve products that are truly natural.
Another tricky chemical you definitely want to watch out for also is sodium lauryl sulfate, commonly referred to as sulphates, sulfates, or SLS found in many shampoos, facial cleansers, and shower gels as a foaming agent. This ingredient is also used in strength cleansers like car wash soap, engine degreasers, and garage floor cleaners because it instantly dissolves grease and oil. Not exactly a comfort to know the very same ingredient used to degrease engines are also used in our shampoos and body wash; things which you’d expect to be gentle yet effective.
Clinical studies prove that SLS can be quite irritating to both hair and skin. In fact, SLS strips them both of their natural protective oils. Yet the biggest concern about SLS is how it reacts with other ingredients used in products. When combined with many popular ingredients, it forms nitrosamines, or nitrates, which are proven carcinogens.
With all this in mind, the big question now is what should be done? Firstly, it’s a good idea to avoid products ridden with these chemicals as much as possible, if not eliminate them completely. That’s why it’s very important to read labels and research ingredients. This can be overwhelming at first, but the more you learn and become familiar with what to look for it’ll be a breeze. And the results of finding safer, more natural products will be well worth the effort for yourself and your family.