PARABENS IN PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS by S.K. LéVeillé

What are parabens?  What are their names in personal care products and why worry about them?  First of all, they can have toxic effects on us!  Parabens are a class of preservatives.  The concept of use has been to prevent growth of bacteria, fungus, prevent spoilage and extend shelf life.

The public is led to believe by big manufacturers that this is the only way to insure safety and a shelf life.  The truth is, parabens may be a cheap fix when it comes to profit margins but there are options.

The four types of parabens found in many personal care products such as soap, shampoo, shaving cream, sunscreen, deodorant, cosmetics and more are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Methylparaben is the methyl ester of hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an updated 2014 Livestrong post by Traci Joy on methylparaben, this compound has been discovered in breast cancer tissues.  Also, skin treated with creams containing this compound risks damage from UBV rays.  Methylparaben can also damage lining of the eyes and cornea.

Ethylparaben is the ethyl ester of hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an updated 2014 post regarding ethylparaben, Wisegeek mentions that 60% of breast tumors are centered near the underarm where deodorant is applied.  (There are many brands of paraben-free deodorants in health food stores/coops, vitamin shops, natural product aisles, online).  In a study of 20 malignant tumors, 18 contained parabens. To replace ethylparaben, phenoxyethanol, a petrochemical, is sometimes used, but its risks appear to be even greater in toxicity to the immune system.

Propylparaben is the n-propyl of p-hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an eHow post on propylparabens by A. Michelle Caldwell, there have been some side effects such as a “felt-like feeling in the mouth.”  High concentrations can irritate the respiratory tract and mucous membranes.  Eyes can become red and runny.  Sperm quality can be affected.

Butylparaben is butyl p-hydroxybenzoate.  Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep data base rates the health risk a high moderate.  Concerns include endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity.

There are so many names that parabens go by in our products that is is impssible to list them all here.  You can look for ingredients containing the words ethyl, methyl, propyl, butyl and paraben.  Some of the ingredient names are longer words like methylisothiazolinone, cocamidapropyl, isobutylparaben.  Or two words like ethyl ester, methyl benzoate, benzoic acid, ethyl parasept, or just one word like benzoate.

You can always do a computer search when you have questions about an ingredient.  There is a safer way to live.  Here are some helpful links:

http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=291

http://www.livestrong.com/article/160857-what-facial-skin-products-do-not-contain-parabens/

http://www.healthybeautyproject.com/news-info/parabens-natural-alternatives-exists/

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/site/about.php

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