Inside: Parabens may seem to be a safe preservative, but they’re not. Paraben dangers are real. Here are 7 scary things to consider about the dangers of parabens.
Paraben Dangers: Why Parabens?
Note: This blog post is one of the “Tidbits of Wisdom for Parents” YouTube video series. To access the 9-minute video synopsis of, “Why are Parabens Bad? Here Are 7 Scary Reasons You Need to Know,” click here
If you’re wondering why I’m talking about parabens on a parenting blog—the reason is simple. Good Parenting Brighter Children encompasses 6 areas of what it takes to raise “brighter children.” One of the six areas is nutrition. Why? Because good nutrition for children equals smarter and healthier kids, teens and adults.
Nutrition includes wellness of every kind—not only what we put in our bodies but also what we put on our bodies. Have you ever asked yourself, “is everything we put on our bodies safe for us and our children?” “Are there things we put on our bodies every day that can possibly pose a threat to our health either short or long-term?”
What affects us physically has the ability to eventually affect us mentally—hence this blog about parabens dangers.
Paraben Dangers: A Controversial Subject!
A word of caution: the safety of parabens is a HIGHLY controversial subject—with people on both sides of the ring spouting their research to support their views. Many say parabens have been extensively researched since the 1950s and are perfectly harmless. Others say the research on parabens is old and there are new ways of researching the safety of chemicals. They’re right! The latest research indicates that parabens are hormone disruptors—a cause of cancer.
What you decide to believe and act upon, is totally up to you. I will present some facts, but at the end of the day you will need to ask yourself:
- “Do I err on the side of caution and eliminate my exposure (as much as possible) to parabens?”
- Or, “Do I trust the research by government organizations and not worry about the parabens I’m exposed to?”
Here are some points to consider when making your decision:
#1: Paraben Dangers: What are Parabens?
Parabens are man-made preservatives made of a group of compounds and used as preservatives in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products and in the food industry. They are the most studied and researched preservatives on the market and found to be safe based on the safety standards at the time they were researched.
#2: Paraben Dangers: Where are Parabens Found?
Parabens are found in makeup, shampoos, lotions, moisturizers, sunscreens, hair care, shaving products and even in food. Some foods containing parabens include beer, desserts, jams, pickles, soft drinks, sauces, frozen dairy products, processed vegetables, and flavoring syrups.
#3: Paraben Dangers: Can I Find Parabens Listed on Products I Purchase?
The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was passed in 1990 and required all packaged food to have nutrition labeling and products contained listed. Cosmetic labeling with all ingredients was also required. If an item contains parabens, they must be listed. Usually as one of the following: (note that some items contain more than one paraben).
#4: Paraben Dangers: Are Parabens Safe?
In 2006, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that parabens are safe to use in cosmetics and can be added to food to prevent spoilage. However, the studies they used to determine this 2006 ruling were done prior to the end of the 1990s when hormone disruption was not an issue. By the end of the 1990s, studies indicated that parabens found in cosmetics, etc., disrupt hormones and can lead to cell proliferation and eventually cancer.
#5: Paraben Dangers: Are There Any Studies That Indicate Parabens Are Unsafe?
For every study that finds something safe, other studies will find it unsafe. The U.S. considers parabens safe; other countries, such as Japan and Great Britain do not. Each opinion is based on their own studies.
In 2004 Dr. Philippa Darbre of the University of Reading in England conducted a study on parabens in cancerous breast tumor tissue. She looked at 5 different parabens and one or more types were found in 99 percent of the tissue samples and all five were measured in 60% of the samples. They were intact—meaning they had bypassed the liver indicating they were not from food. The parabens were entering the system through the skin. (see point #2)
She has since conducted additional studies on breast cancer and parabens with the same results. The conclusion was that parabens may be carcinogenic meaning they either fuel the growth of existing cancer cells through estrogenic activity or they transform healthy cells into cancer cells.
In Japan, studies show that parabens are related to low sperm count and decreased testosterone levels. This occurred in very small doses of paraben exposure.
#6: Paraben Dangers: Environmental Working Group (EWG) and EWG Skin Deep
The EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.
Based on the available research, the EWG believes that parabens may be linked to hormone disruption and mimic estrogen. The EWG Cosmetic online database, Skin Deep rates the safety of over 76,000 cosmetics on their database. You can find out the safety of the products your family uses by going to this website and typing in your products. It will give you a rating of just how safe or unsafe they are.
Last, consider this: women put on about 13 different products on their bodies each day; men between 5 and 7 products. It’s not like the exposure to parabens is minimal for adults AND kids–it’s a lot! If your products do not meet the safety standards you want, it’s a simple solution…change your products.
#7: Paraben Dangers: Are There Safe Preservatives?
Yes–there are many safe and natural preservatives. Grapefruit seed extract, potassium sorbate, sorbic acid (vitamin c), tocopherol and essential oils all are safer options than parabens.
Think about this: if there is so much controversy on parabens and there is research to indicate that there are at least potential issues using parabens, and there are other, safer choices for preservatives—why not err on the side of caution and eliminate the parabens and use products that are safer? To me, it’s a no-brainer.
There are many manufacturers who want their products to be safe for consumers. On their own, they have eliminated parabens from their products and they put labels on their products to indicate they are “paraben, sulfate, and glycol free.” As a parent–look for these labels and purchase these products for yourself and your children. I’ve included some products that are paraben-free below.
Paraben-Free Products for Your Family
As an extra tip to help you get started using paraben-free products, here are some organic, paraben, glycol and sulfate-free products for your family. I’ve used most of them as have my daughters-in-law. If you click on the image and go to Amazon–you will see that these companies carry a whole line of safe products–from shampoos, conditioners, lotions, body wash, baby creams and more.
Little Twig Products
I’ve used these for my grandkids–amazing! I know the woman who started the company. She worked with pediatricians and scientists to come up with the most natural and safe products for babies, toddlers, and older kids.
The Honest Company
An amazing company–tends to be more expensive, but worth it. They also carry a line of diapers and baby wipes.
These products are not only paraben-free, but they are also glycol and sulfate-free. They have no artificial dyes or fragrances.
One word about Dr. Bronner’s products. They are amazing for the whole family and perfect for teens with acne. They are oil-based so your teens will probably balk at using an oil-based product on their oily skin. BUT–have you ever heard the saying, “opposites attract?” Well, the opposite is also true–“likes break down likes.” The oil in these products actually breaks down the oil on acne skin. Try it–it really helps!
Jack n’ Jill Toothpaste
Your kids will love this toothpaste–tastes great and perfectly safe!
This is not a complete list. These companies are also great: Zoe Organics (a line for pregnant women), Boudreaux’s Butt Paste for Babies, and Shea Moisture Olive and Marula Baby Shampoo.
All parents want to protect their children from as many seen and unseen dangers as possible. Eliminating something as simple as parabens may be a good place to start.
P.S. If you want in-depth information about parabens, go to my YouTube “Tidbits of Wisdom” presentation. I discuss more background about parabens and how there were big changes in the Pharmaceutical industry in the 1980s which lead to the research on parabens because of their link to hormone disruption.
Want to remember this post? Post, “Why are Parabens Bad? Here Are 7 Scary Reasons You Need to Know” on your favorite Pinterest board!
What is a paraben and why is it bad?
Parabens are man-made preservatives made of a group of compounds and used as preservatives in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products and in the food industry. In 2006, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that parabens are safe to use in cosmetics and can be added to food to prevent spoilage. However, the studies they used to determine this 2006 ruling were done prior to the end of the 1990s when hormone disruption was not an issue. By the end of the 1990s, studies indicated that parabens found in cosmetics, etc., disrupt hormones and can lead to cell proliferation and eventually cancer.
Is paraben in cosmetics safe?
No, not necessarily. In 2006, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that parabens are safe to use in cosmetics. However, the studies they used to determine this 2006 ruling were done prior to the end of the 1990s when hormone disruption was not an issue. By the end of the 1990s, studies indicated that parabens found in cosmetics, etc., disrupt hormones and can lead to cell proliferation and eventually cancer.
Is paraben harmful for skin?
One of the ways parabens enter the body is through the skin. Studies on cancerous breast tissue that contain parabens show that the parabens are intact—meaning they had bypassed the liver and were entering the body through the skin. Consider this: Women put on about 13 different products on their bodies each day; men between 5 and 7 products. The exposure to parabens is NOT minimal for adults AND kids–it’s a lot! If your products do not meet the safety standards you want, it’s a simple solution…change your products.
Are parabens actually harmful?
Many studies indicate that they are linked to- Breast cancer. Cell proliferation that leads to cancer. Parabens fuel the growth of existing cancer through estrogenic activity. Carcinogenic in that parabens transform healthy cells into cancer cells. Connected to low sperm count and decreased testosterone levels
While I’m sure good intentioned, this article is misleading- cosmetic scientists and dermatologists agree there is no reason to fear the parabens currently in use. In fact, they are some of the most researched and most effective ingredients in skincare. The 2004 study you cited was actually incredibly small and contained no control group- it’s also important to realize causation and correlation are not the same thing, and this study makes that assumption.
Sharlene Habermeyer says
Thank you for your insights and comments, Marissa. However, not all cosmetic scientists and dermatologists agree on the safety or non-safety of parabens. I worked for a cosmetic scientist and he was concerned about parabens and encouraged skincare formulators to use other alternatives for preservatives in cosmetics. He was not alone in his thinking about parabens. Many cosmetic companies tout their products as “sulfate, glycol, and paraben-free.” You talk about “incredibly small” studies. This study has nothing to do with parabens, but in the 1990s I read a study on ADHD in the New England Journal of Medicine that used only 6 participants in their study and there was no control group. I was perplexed that this seemingly small study with no control group would be published in such a prestigious journal so I talked to several medical researchers about the article. They assured me that using statistics and probability, this was indeed a viable study. Parabens, like so many subjects, are controversial, but I do believe in erring on the side of caution. When I taught college, I told my students both sides of the controversy and let them decide for themselves.
cherry macdonald says
Hello, I am just discovering that most of our products have harm to our health in them and why? I believe 100% that parabens are dangerous and put into these products to deliberately harm us I believe that you could remove the bit about Amazon as they are now being charged with Human Trafficking.
Sharlene Habermeyer says
Thank you Cherry. Parabens are a very controversial subject. I don’t think they are put into products to deliberately harm us, but if you read and study the history of parabens it may be because the research that was done on parabens in the 1950s found that parabens are safe. Recent research begs to differ. It becomes our responsibility to choose what we will or won’t put on or into our bodies. And sometimes that’s tough!
Carolyn Allen says
Thank you for your thorough research into every subject you bring to us. You present the scientific material in a way that is easy to understand and so informative. You “have our back” on so many important issues, and I thank you for it.
Sharlene Habermeyer says
Thank you Carolyn! It means a lot! You are on top of so many things, I’m sure you are well aware of parabens (and all your kids, too!). It’s an interesting topic and I appreciate your interest and concern!
Such an informative post, Sharlene. I also watched the corresponding YouTube video which was equally informative. You’ve truly given me a ton to think about in terms of the products and food I feed to my family. It’s so scary to think about all the harm we could potentially be doing to ourselves by using just normal everyday products. I try to be healthy in terms of my food and staying fit, but this is an area I’m not currently doing the best job at. You’ve encouraged me to get my act together and start making better choices with the products I buy!! Thank you for this!
Sharlene Habermeyer says
Thanks, Tiffany! In all the research I’ve read and studied, I really feel there are issues with parabens. And if there are safer alternatives–why not use them? Thank you for your support and comments–they are appreciated!
I am a fit person and have eaten healthy my entire life. I had breast cancer this past winter and am now using better healthier products. Parabens scare me now.
Sharlene Habermeyer says
Thank you so much Tiffany for sharing your experiences. I hope you make a complete recovery–it sounds like you will because you have engaged in a healthy lifestyle! A microbial DNA test will help determine if you have a propensity for breast cancer in your family. I have many friends that have had this test. And, best of luck as you read labels and become informed–that’s the best thing you can do. Like you mentioned–stay away from parabens! My best to you!