What are parabens? Are they really harmful?
What are parabens?
Parabens are a class of preservative chemicals. They are added to foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products (such as shampoos, lotions, deodorants, creams, moisturizers etc.) to prevent growth of bacteria and fungi. Because of parabens products have a long shelf life from few months to even years.
Common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.
Interesting fact: parabens occur naturally at low levels at certain foods: currants, strawberries, carrots, onions, vanilla, barley, mango, blueberries, olives, cocoa beans and onions.
Now days the use of parabens are considered to be a controversial and parabens’ safety is widely questioned. There is no solid evidence that parabens cause cancer, however scientists believe that these chemicals contribute to disruption of normal body functions, which might lead to cancer.
How do parabens enter one’s body? When you apply cosmetics, skin care and other personal care products, all added chemicals added to those products enter your body as well. Some researches show that human body absorbs up to few pounds of cosmetic chemicals per year.
Traces of parabens were detected in small samples in breast tumours; scientists assume that chemicals entered tumours from something applied to skin (could be creams, lotions, deodorants etc). However, there is no scientific proof that parabens contributed or caused tumours to form.
It is also believed that parabens can disrupt endocrine hormone function; some researches show that parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptor cells which could trigger increased cell division and potentially lead to cancer.
Some scientists believe that parabens might contribute to skin aging, increase of UV-damage and reproductive toxicity.
Once again, there is no solid scientific data about damaging effects of parabens on humans, however, parabens’ safety is becoming more and more questionable and controversial.
Parabens are still widely used as preservatives in cosmetic mass production. There are no rules and regulations restricting or controlling use of parabens in Canada; however some countries to have regulations on the concentration of parabens in cosmetics. More and more people started looking at product labels and favour products that do not contain parabens. Many cosmetic companies realize that and started putting “parabens free” note on their products’ labels. Unfortunately it does not mean that those products are harmless and do not contain harmful chemicals.
The use of parabens and other chemicals in everyday cosmetics and body products is becoming more and more controversial. I buy some of my skin care products from natural health store. I prefer Derma E line as I find products by this company to be very suitable for my skin. Company claims that all their products are free of harmful chemicals and preservatives and also 100% cruelty free (Derma E. 100% Vegan. GMO Free. Cruelty Free.)
Many people turn to homemade cosmetics. The major advantage of homemade products is that you know for sure what is in the product and you can be certain that there are no hidden chemicals and harmful preservatives.
I really love the the following homemade lotion/cream. I make it all the time and add different essential oil depending on the time of the year, my mood or health issues.
3/4 cup of base oil – jojoba, apricot, grape seed, avocado or almond oil (whichever you prefer)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 oz of beeswax
Melt coconut oil and beeswax, mix, add base oil and set mixture aside, let it reharden.
2/3 cup of distilled water (or rosewater; I use flat mineral water)
1/3 cup of aloe vera gel
1/3 tsp of Vit E
5 drops of tea tree oil (acts as preservative)
Mix hardened oil blend with the rest of ingredients with hand mixer. You will notice that oil and water would not want to mix together but take your time. Mix until water and oils mix together and turn into cream. You will have smooth lotion-like mixture. Add essential oils if desired. Keep cream in glass air tight containers. Cream’s shelf life is 6 months and up to a year if refrigerated.