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June 07, 2020
Parabens. What are they and why should we be avoiding them? I'm sure you loves have heard by now that parabens are bad for you, but do you know exactly what is so bad about them? Many product labels now claim to have paraben free formulations, marketing them as clean and healthier alternatives but are they actually clean? This blog post we will dive in deep on what parabens are, why they are used and how to avoid them. Let's dive into it shall we?
WHAT ARE PARABENS?
On a recent IGTV Live with Celine Leduc, ND and part owner of EastND we discussed the topic parabens. Parabens are very common toxin that we see on a lot of on product labels but do you actually know what a paraben is? Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used in cosmetics, body care products and fragrance as artificial preservatives since the 1920's. Since cosmetics contain ingredients that biodegrade, these chemicals are an added preventative to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria, and mold, all while increasing the products shelf life.
WHY ARE PARABENS DANGEROUS?
The concern with the different variety of parabens that scientific studies suggest: they can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes and increase the risk of cancer. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has categorized parabens as a 1 priority substances, based on evidence that they interfere with the hormone function. Parabens can mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone and has been detected in human breast cancer tissues suggesting a possible association between parabens in cosmetics and cancer. It has also been suggested that parabens may also interfere with male reproductive functions. Parabens are estimated to be found in over 75-90% (typically at low levels) of the personal care products on the market today. What's unfortunate about these "low levels" is that an average women uses 20 products a day and if each of those 20 products, even 10 of those products contain parabens (or any chemical for that mater) those small equivalents add up quite quickly, bio accumulating in the body. Whats even more unfortunate is that the use of these chemicals are completely unnecessary. Products can be made without parabens and with healthy alternative preservatives such as Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus Ferment, Phenethyl Alcohol and Propanediol, so why are these not being used instead?
What's more frightening is that some studies indicate other forms of parabens such as methylparabens for example that is applied on the skin, reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. DNA DAMAGE. Isn't that just wild that a product you are using could change your DNA? To top it off when parabens are combined with chlorinated tap water (that's you town folks), a number of chlorinated paraben byproducts can form. Little is known about the toxicity of these byproducts, which may be more persistent. Currently there is no law in Canada that forbids the use of parabens.
PARABENS & THE ENVIRONMENT
If bodily harm isn't enough to make you quiver, what about environmental harm? Parabens have been linked to ecological harm, as low levels of butylparaben can kill coral reefs, according to laboratory tests. Parabens have also been detected in surface waters, fish and sediments.
Often times we forget that living on this planet we are one. We share the same eco system and sometimes a gentle reminder is needed. When we wash our bodies the products we are using are being passed through our water ways and effecting our aquatic life. Not to mention the spillage and environmental leakage that happens at our waste plants. Everything that we do not only effects us as humans but the earth as a whole.
WHAT PRODUCTS DO WE FIND PARABENS MOST OFTEN?
Did you know parabens occur naturally at low levels in certain foods? This is something new that I had recently learned and was actually quite shocked! Parabens can be found in foods such as barley, strawberries, currants, vanilla, carrots, and onions, although a synthetic preparation derived from petrochemicals is what is used in cosmetics. Parabens in foods are metabolized when eaten, making them less strongly estrogenic. In contrast, when parabens are applied to the skin and absorbed into the body, they bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and the body’s organs intact.
This is why it is so important to know what we are putting on our bodies. When we place products on our skin topically we are allowing the products to bypass the metabolic process not allowing to be filtered and so these toxins go immediately to our organs and blood stream.
HOW TO FIND PARABENS ON PRODUCT LABELS?
As if you need something else to search for on your product labels, although this one might be a little bit easier for you identify than other toxins. Common parabens that are found in cosmetics are: Methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, and ethylparaben. When searching for products that contain parabens simply search for the word itself as chemicals in this class generally have “paraben” in their names.
MISLEADING MARKETING TIPS?
We all know sometimes marketing schemes get us and with the rise of green beauty those marketing campaigns are upping their game. Unfortunately instead of putting money towards cleaner, healthier ingredients companies have invested in stronger marketing tactics to lure the consumer. As a green beauty enthusiast this is very frustrating because there is a lot of companies try to do good and are sometimes out wayed by the dishonest corporations. Some common marketing tactics that I see today are:
Paraben Free: It is absolutely wonderful to see that a product is labeled paraben free but what about all the other chemicals that are found in the product? Parabens are common toxin knowledge and so the company is using its marketing tactic to emphasis it is free of toxins, but in reality it is just short of one less ingredient. This goes for the same as sulphate free, or silicone free, all running the same marketing campaign. This is a very common misconception so please be mindful of these marketing tactics and read the products ingredient list and not just the cover. It's just like that saying "Don’t judge a book by its cover", it’s the same idea.
Fragrance Free: This is another biggy in the cosmetic world. Fragrance free is often marketed towards individuals with sensitive skin, rosacea or even eczema. Unfortunately when a product is labeled fragrance free there is usually another chemical used masking the other scents. When this is found on the label It’s not the product is fragrance free itself but rather "scent free" so that you cannot smell the formulation. .. confused yet? This is done intentionally.
These are just a couple examples of marketing schemes found in cosmetics and we can go down quite the rabbit hole but we will save that for another blog post.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF SOMETHING IS SCENTED NATURALLY?
Tailing off the end of scents I wanted to briefly touch on fragrance. Commonly parabens are found in fragrance but unfortunately consumers cannot actually see the ingredients entailed behind the word itself because it is protected by the FDA . Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets, so manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients. This is where things get tricky: By law any fragrance that is labeled on a product must read “fragrance” on the ingredient list. This goes for synthetic fragrance, natural fragrance and essential oils. The key here is to look for wording underneath the ingredient list that reads: naturally scented, scents created with essential oils and so on. If a company is being honest they will have it labeled what the fragrance actually is, if you are unsure check their online website for more details.
It has become more frequent that companies are labeling their fragrance or scents as "paraben free" but be mindful (just as stated above) that much like product ingredients just because a product is "paraben free" does not mean that the product is toxin free.
DO PARABENS EXIST IN PLASTIC VESSELS THAT OUR COSMETICS OR SKINCARE ARE FOUND IN?
To quickly answer this question the answer is no, parabens do not exist in plastic vessels/ containers that our cosmetics and skincare can be found in. BUT there is a chemical called BPA which is found in many plastics and although it doesn’t have the title of parabens, it very much has the same contributions to the body as an endocrine disruptor.
WHAT IS BPA? Bisphenol A, S, F are plasticizers, chemicals used to make plastics softer and more flexible. It is common to see products that are now BPA free, however, it is not guaranteed that they are BPS or BPF free, these chemicals are substitutes for BPA and often times are not listed on the product.
WHERE IS IT FOUND: Plastics (esp #7), receipt paper, the lining of cans and teething toys, water bottles, Tupperware. Impact on the body: It is weakly estrogenic, meaning it may act as estrogen in the body leading to overstimulation. Increased symptoms of PMS, increased weight gain or inability to lose weight in the abdominal region, synthetic estorgens have also been shown to disrupt gut flora leading to digestive issues.
HOW TO AVOID IT: Whenever possible it is best to be purchasing products in glass, bamboo, refillable or whatever it may be outside of plastic for the sake of this planet and human health. When purchasing plastics look for BPA free variety, be cautious however it may be BPA free but not BPS or BPF free.
In conclusion parabens are definitely a toxin to be mindful of and if you are uncertain about a product, brand or ingredient please inquire within. Celine and/or I would be so pleased to help you find healthier alternative to get you on the right path. If you have any comments, questions or perhaps have another topic you would like Celine and I to discuss send us a message, we love hearing from you.
Written by: Jacqueline
Adapted by: EASTND
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