An article that explains the controversy and fears surrounding the use of parabens in skincare products –
Have you noticed an increasing number of labels on personal care products with the words “paraben-free”? Parabens are synthetic chemicals used as an antimicrobial preservative and are found in a staggering array of products, from hand soap to toothpaste. They are known hormone disruptors (more about this below) and have been found in the tissue of breast cancer tumors, but the FDA and mainstream cosmetics industry maintain that they are safe. What?! We set out to get a handle on the paraben puzzle—here’s what we found.
What are parabens?
Parabens, short for “para-hydroxybenzoate,” are a class of preservatives widely used in cosmetics and personal care products (as well as pharmaceuticals and food)—they are used to prevent bacteria, yeast and mold. There are six types of parabens most commonly used in personal care products: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben and benzylparaben. Unlike some dizzyingly complicated chemical names, parabens are easy to spot on product labels because they end in “paraben.”
What are hormone disruptors?
In the 1990s the scientific community became increasingly aware that some synthetic chemicals are able to interfere with the function of our hormones—these chemicals are called hormone disruptors (also called endocrine disruptors). With this discovery, many ingredients previously considered safe, such as parabens, were now being considered for their hormone disrupting potential. Hormone disruptors act by mimicking our natural hormones. Our bodies are “fooled” by these imitation hormones, which results in the corruption of our natural hormonal processes. Within the category of hormone disruptors are xenoestrogens, synthetic chemicals that mimic estrogen. A number of studies have shown that parabens fall into the xenoestrogens’ group; xenoestrogens may be linked to high rates of breast cancer, and reproductive problems in women and decreased sperm counts, prostate and testicular cancer in men. The FDA acknowledges that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer.