What are Parabens?

parabens benzylparaben butylparaben propylparaben methylparaben

Parabens have been invading our bathrooms from as early as the 1950’s and can be found in up to 90% of all personal care products such as shampoos, liquid cleansers, lotion, etc. Their widespread use boils down to the fact that parabens face little regulation by health care authorities and are cheaply produced chemical preservatives that help to prolong the shelf life of commercial skin care products. In many of these commercially manufactured products, you’ll find not just one paraben, but often two or three.

Why Are Parabens Bad?

For decades, parabens have been considered safe for use in skin care products within recommended limits. In the US however, there are no legal requirements for manufacturers to comply with these limits. Several early studies on parabens by Philippa Darbre, senior lecturer in oncology and researcher in biomolecular sciences at the University of Reading, in England, found a strong connection to breast cancer, with parabens detected in 99% of cancerous cells. It was also found that “55 percent of all breast cancer tumors occur in the upper outside portion of the breast, the section closest to the underarm” – the same place underarm deodorant (containing parabens) is applied. While causality was not established, the correlation prompted further research.

This led further research, resulting in the European Commission recently classifying parabens as Category 1 priority substances due to evidence of interference with hormone function. Parabens are now referred to as Endocrine Disrupters, which are synthetic chemicals that block or mimic hormones and affect the functions these hormones control in our bodies.

Torkjel M. Sandanger and researchers at the Fram Centre in Tromsø tested 350 samples of blood from Norwegian women that used products with parabens and found a connection in their blood. Sandanger concluded that parabens “disrupt the hormonal balance in the body” and “They can also lead to certain types of cancer if used over a long period of time.” (Bjarne Rosjo 2012).

Other finding from recent paraben studies show:

  • Interference with male reproductive functions – lowering of sperm count.
  • Premature puberty in girls caused by parabens mimicking estrogen.
  • Breast cancer – The high incidence (99%) of parabens, especially propyl paraben, detected in breast cancer tumor tissues also suggest a possible link between parabens in cosmetics and cancer. Additional research has found that parabens disrupt theactivity of genes that are normally regulated by natural estrogen. This causes human breast tumor cells to grow and multiply (Byford, 2002; Pugazhendhi, 2007).
  • Increased skin aging and DNA damage due to reactions withUVB from application of moisturizers, lotions and sunscreens containing parabens.

Because of their high skin-permeability, parabens from body care products applied on skin are absorbed directly through the dermatitis. The mounting evidence has led to growing concern about human exposure to parabens, including exposure from skin care cosmetics.

No Parabens Allowed – Paraben Bans in Denmark and Europe

Parabens are banned from certain skin care products in Denmark. In December 20th, 2010, Denmark became the first nation to ban parabens from all products that are used by children under the age of 3. They banned two particular types of parabens – propyl paraben and butyl paraben. In June, 2010, a study by the US CDC showed how methylparaben was present in 99.1% of 2,548 samples of urine in people 6 and older. Propylparaben was in 92.7% of urine samples. While the FDA that regulates cosmetics in the US still says there is nothing to worry about, Denmark, well known for its family friendly policies and recently voted the nation with the happiest population, has made the decision to put the safety of its citizens first.

In 2014, the European Commission amended Annex II of the EU cosmetic Regulation, adding five other parabens to the list of substances prohibited in cosmetic products.

  • isopropylparaben
  • isobutylparaben
  • phenylparaben
  • benzylparaben
  • Heptylparaben

Cosmetic products containing any of these parabens have been completely banned from sales in the 27 countries of the European Union since Oct 2015.

Types of Parabens

Check your skin care products. Look at the ingredients label for any parabens. Some parabens commonly used in cosmetics include:

  • Methylparaben (aka E218 or Methyl-p-hydroxy-benzoate)
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben (aka E216 or Propyl-p-hydroxy-benzoate)
  • Butylparaben

These four parabens were recently classified as Category 1 endocrine disruptors by the European Commission, meaning there is evidence of Endocrine (hormonal system) Disruption. For example, Propylparaben is linked to cancer while Methylparaben is linked to increased skin-aging and DNA damage.

How to be Paraben Free

With the dark clouds of controversy surrounding parabens and their possible health risks, the wise choice would be to avoid use of products that contain parabens, especially on babies and children who are especially vulnerable to endocrine disruption.

The problem is finding paraben free products since almost all commercial products have parabens. At PremaTouch, our mission is to change lives. It’s why we help rescue and provide sustainable income to ladies who have been trafficked. And it’s also why we make all natural soap. Our tagline is “it’s life-changing”, both for the women, who find a new life making soap; and for our customers, who have a wonderful all natural coconut oil soap with no parabens!

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