Saturday, 5 January 2013

Stuff I Don't Put On My Face: Parabens

In a couple of my posts, I've mentioned that I've stopped using certain products due to their paraben content.  And I've realised that people might not know what they are, so... blog post to the rescue?

Parabens are, essentially, preservatives - used to prolong the shelf-life of cosmetic products.  Fine, make them last longer, right? Unless the preservative has been linked to Cancer.  Oh, God.  Crazy pretend scientist lady is using the C-Word.  There may not be a ton of evidence, but there is some, and that is enough for me - along with a whole heap of others (including some of the top YouTube Beauty Gurus).  

What makes parabens so iffy is their chemical structure (all commercially used Parabens are synthetically produced, although some may be identical to those found naturally within plants), which mimics Oestrogen. 

Oestrogen is a hormone known to play a role in breast cancer and is also a hormone released by females during puberty. It has been suggested that parabens could be linked to the increasing prevalence of precocious puberty - girls reaching puberty before 8  years old, as a result of endocrine disruption from environmental exogenous hormones (parabens).

Supporting Studies:

A 2004 study at Northwestern University found that an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/ deodorants and underarm shaving. A 2012 UK study of 40 mastectomies by Barr et al. found parabens in 99% of tissue samples from the cancer site, and in 96%, all 5 parabens were found.

The lead researcher of a UK study, molecular biologist Philippa Darbre, reported that the ester-bearing form of the parabens found in the tumors indicate that they came from something applied to the skin, such as an underarm deodorant, cream or body spray, and stated that the results helped to explain why up to 60% of all breast tumors are found in just one-fifth of the breast - the upper-outer quadrant, nearest the underarm.

It's not just girls that are affected by parabens either, in men, they have been linked to decreased sperm counts, which can cause fertility problems.  In a Japanese test performed on male rats, daily sperm production and its efficiency in the testis of all groups receiving propyl-paraben significantly decreased. The serum testosterone concentration decreased in a dose-dependent manner and the decrease was significant in the group that received the highest dose. The exposure level at which this effect was observed is the same as the upper-limit acceptable daily intake (10 mg/kg body weight/day) of parabens in the European Community and Japan.  

A 2008 study by Philippa Darbre and DW Harvey supported the indications from the sperm test, stating that  'parabens have now also been shown to possess androgen antagonist activity, to act as inhibitors of sulfotransferase enzymes and to possess genotoxic activity.'

These aren't the only down-sides to parabens, Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin may react with UVB - leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.  Ironic, really - the preservatives used to keep cosmetics products fresher for longer will make your skin age faster.

So how do you avoid parabens?

Sometimes products have helpful little logos on them declaring they're paraben free such as these to the above, but if not, it's really simple. 

Parabens are usually the last ingredients on the list, as they're included in the smallest percentage - so when you're picking up a deodorant, body wash, makeup product, anything topically applied - just check the ingredients!

If unsure, you can always check this website for the ingredient list of a ton of makeup brands, or even the brand's own website.

Paraben Free Products

Bare Minerals

Neutrogena Naturals (Naturals range only)

Elf Mineral (Mineral range only, parabens used in Studio and regular Elf products)

Une (also found in Boots and Superdrug)

By no means am I saying that everyone should go paraben-free right now, or else! I'm just putting the information out there so that everyone can make their own choice on the matter.  Personally, I chose the 'better safe than sorry' route, (sacrificing my favourite primer along the way).

If you'd like any more information from studies performed, click here or here to start you off :)

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  1. Great post. You just got yourself a new follower.
    xx, Taryn

    1. Thanks so much :) Following you, too xx

  2. This is really interesting (If a bit scary!) You have written this in such an easy to understand way, thank you so much :) Will definitely consider at least trying to look out for more paraben free products!

    1. So glad you liked it, it is worth cutting down on your parabens, glad to be of service! :)