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Parabens: Here is what you need to know

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Parabens are a common ingredient in hair products

 

WHAT ARE PARABENS?

Parabens are highly effective preservatives used to guard against microorganisms that cause mold, mildew and fungus. They are the most widely used preservative and have been used for many years in beauty products as well as foods additives and supplements that we consume daily. There are normally several types of parabens used within any given product and they are easy to identify such as: methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Besides protecting against the growth of microorganisms, parabens save us money by extending the shelf life of products. Some products in the beauty industry that contain parabens include makeup, deodorants, toothpaste, spray tans, shaving gels, moisturizers, shampoos and other hair care products. But are they harmful?

 

PARABENS AND BREAST CANCER

Parabens have gotten a bad rap over the years being that they also are phytoestrogens, which produce a similar effect to estrogen in our bodies. It was indicated that parabens in products can be absorbed into the body and mimic estrogen, so deodorants (containing parabens) were pointed to as a probable culprit in breast cancer. Parabens were detected in breast tumors in a study in 2004 by Darbre, in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, but according to the Food and Drug Administration, the report didn’t show that parabens cause cancer or that they were even harmful at all.

Another study (Routledge et al., in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology) reported that ” butylparaben, the most potent paraben in the study, showed from 10,000- to 100,000-fold less activity than naturally occurring estradiol (a form of estrogen.)”  Some of these studies conducted on animals suggested a “very weak estrogenic effect” after exposing them to extremely high doses of parabens, much more than anyone would actually ever be exposed to.

The parabens in products are significantly weaker than natural phytoestrogens in foods and supplements we consume regularly. Furthermore  there have been no direct links made to parabens in products and cancer. The bottom line is as of today the FDA hasn’t found parabens to be a threat to anyone.

 

PRODUCTS WITHOUT PARABENS

Worldwide every study to date has concluded that parabens in cosmetics are safe to use, still many companies have made the decision to make paraben free products. Most deodorants and antiperspirants are now paraben free. The oxymoron – Dr. Ranella Hirsch, dermatologist and past president of American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, says whether it be a paraben or some other preservative, every product requiring a shelf life needs a preservative to stop the growth of bacteria.

Some hair care companies that have lines of paraben free products include, Aveda, Aveeno, Clean & Clear and Johnson & Johnson.  If you want to go the paraben free route with your hair care products, check the labels for a “use by” date and product ingredients. Hair care product companies are required by law to list all ingredients on the label. But, could it be that “paraben free” has just become the next new marketing tool?

 

 

 

  





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