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Parabens: what's the concern? Posted June 1, 2013

Today, parabens seem to be a prominent topic in the personal care world. We know that they are bad — the “Paraben Free” label is pure gold to consumers — but few understand what they are, and why they can be so harmful to our bodies.

What are parabens?

The FDA sources parabens as “the most widely used preservatives in cosmetic products.” The term itself is a blanket name for methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, the compounds that are most commonly used to preserve goods. Simply put, parabens are chemicals that act as preservatives.

Why do we use parabens?

Parabens are infused into products to keep bacteria and fungi from growing. Think about a jar of pickles in your fridge: they keep for so long because they are preserved. Parabens are doing essentially the same thing with skincare products. It’s worth noting that goods that do not contain parabens still have a shelf life of over a year; chances are you will have used up your product by that time.

Which products contain parabens?

Parabens sneak into almost every personal care product imaginable. We're not just talking soaps and shampoos - think toothpaste, lotions, makeup, face wash, deodorant, and more. It was recently reported that a staggering 90% of skincare products contain these preservatives.

To give you a little food for thought, parabens also run rampant on the shelves of your grocery store. Meats, pastries, cereal, and myriad other products contain substantial amounts of these preservatives. Next time you go food shopping, take a look at the labels: you might be surprised by what you find.

Many companies use parabens as an “easy way out” — whether food or face wash, these preservatives ensure that products can last longer on store shelves. The only sacrifice is your health. Good deal, right?

Why are they considered harmful?

When it comes to health concerns, parabens have been entering the dialogue at an alarming rate. They have a proven track record of mimicking hormones, which can disrupt the function of natural hormones in your body. In addition, parabens can weaken your immune and endocrine systems. A 2008 study conducted by Dr. Philipa Darbre found that parabens were discovered in the tissue samples of 99% of the breast cancer patients surveyed.

And the risk isn’t reserved for women. Last year, A Danish study reported that parabens could affect men’s reproductive systems and cause other health effects. They reached this conclusion after finding traces of the preservatives in the polled mens’ blood just minutes after applying paraben-infused lotions to their skin.

Scarier still is the fact that researchers have only touched the proverbial tip of the iceberg. We do not fully understand the long-term affects that these preservatives can have on our bodies — it’s a waiting game.

What are our options?

There’s good news! You can avoid parabens altogether — and give your body a healthy treat. Our handmade and organic soaps are guaranteed 100% paraben free. Your skin and your health will thank you.

When taking a trip to the food store, take a look at the ingredients before you place things in your cart. You can cut parabens out of your life with a minimal amount of effort.

An easy tip: these preservatives might have long and complex names (isobutylparaben, anyone?), but each compound features “paraben” at the tail end of the word. Keep this in mind when looking at labels!

If you want to see how parabens factor into your everyday life, you can use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to see which of your personal care products contain the preservatives. We’d love to hear what you discover!