Did you know that your regular cosmetics could contain certain endocrine-disrupting chemicals called ‘parabens’ which could be irritating your skin, disrupting your hormones, increasing cancer-risk and even harming the health of your unborn children?
Unfortunately, these parabens are everywhere.
They’re used as preservatives in almost all mainstream cosmetic products like shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, moisturisers, shower gels, face washes, scrubs, make up and even food!
So, what’s the problem with parabens, and how can we go about avoiding them? Here’s our definitive ‘how to’ guide.
Why Are Parabens Bad?
When you apply a product which contains parabens, the chemicals get absorbed through the skin and end up in your bloodstream where they can start to do their damage.
Here’s some of the most worrying ways that parabens can harm your health:
- Parabens can disrupt your hormones. According to research at Cornell University, parabens mimic natural oestrogen which can cause hormonal imbalances, reproductive issues like PCOS and, according to a 2004 study, increase your risk of breast cancer.
- Parabens can irritate your skin. Parabens can also trigger or worsen a wide range of skin problems such as contact dermatitis, rosacea, and eczema.
- Parabens can increase your cancer risk. According to Breast Cancer UK, the parabens in cosmetics can increase your risk of developing breast cancer and also increase the risk of it spreading.
- Parabens can harm the development of your baby. As parabens are absorbed through the skin of pregnant women, they can harm healthy development of the growing baby.
- Parabens can reduce fertility. A study carried out at Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory discovered that parabens reduce sperm count in men.
Scary stuff, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
How to Spot Parabens in Cosmetics
If you’re serious about avoiding parabens, there’s only one thing you need to do…
Read those ingredient labels and then choose your cosmetics accordingly.
Sounds pretty easy when you put it like that, doesn’t it? But as we all know, it can be both confusing and overwhelming when you’re looking at a product description with absolutely no clue of what all those strange-sounding words mean.
Here’s an easy guide on how you can cut through the scientific jargon, spot those parabens and avoid them.
Read the labels. You want to avoid anything with the word ‘paraben’ in the name. This includes:
- Any other ingredient which ends in –paraben
Avoid perfumes and fragrances. Parabens often hide in artificial perfumes and fragrances, yet the manufacturers aren’t legally required to list them on the label. If you’d prefer not to go fragrance-free, look for cosmetics which have been scented with essential oils or carry the words ‘paraben-free’ on the label.
Spot the hidden parabens! Even if you can’t see the word ‘paraben’, don’t think that your cosmetics product is paraben-free. Often, they’ll just use the abbreviations for the parabens listed above to the label, using words such as ‘ethyl’, ‘butyl’, ‘methy’ and ‘propyl’. Be wise!
List of Parabens to Avoid
Here’s a list of parabens to avoid so you can quickly check the ingredients list of products and make sure they don’t contain parabens:
- 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid
- 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid methyl ester
- Aseptoform E
- Benzoic acid
- Bonomold OE
- Butyl 4-hydroxybenzoate
- Butyl ester
- Butylparaben (E209)
- Ethyl 4-Hydroxybenzoate
- Ethyl ester
- Ethyl parasept
- Ethylparaben (E214)
- Heptylparaben (E209)
- Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate
- Methyl butex
- Methyl chemosept
- Methyl ester
- Methyl ester of p-hydroxybenzoic acid
- Methyl paraben
- Methyl parahydroxybenzoate
- Methyl parasept
- Methyl p-hydroxybenzoate
- Methyl p-oxybenzoate
- Methylparaben (E218)
- Nipagin M
- p-Hydroxybenzoic acid methyl ester
- Preserval M
- Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate
- Propyl ester
- Propyl paraben
- Propyl p-hydroxybenzoate
- Propylparaben (E216)
- Solbrol M
- Tegosept E
- Tegosept M
Please don’t expose yourself to harmful parabens.
Instead, learn how to read those labels, spot the parabens (even if they’re hiding) and choose kinder, healthier, paraben-free cosmetics instead.
Charlotte Witts is a writer and entrepreneur who wants to show you how easy it is to live a more conscious, zero-waste lifestyle. A confirmed yoga-addict, trail runner and ocean-lover, she currently lives in the Azores where she enjoys the simple pleasures in life.