Avoid Parabens in Your Personal Care Products

  • Topic Info:From shampoos and body washes to shaving cream and lotions, there is no shortage of personal care products on the market.

    On average, women use 12 cosmetic products with a 168 unique ingredients each day. Men typically use six products per day, with about 85 ingredients total.

    Most of these products contain parabens, which can be detrimental to your health. 

    Parabens are synthetic chemicals used in products (mostly personal care products) as anti-microbial preservatives. They are found in deodorants, lotions, cosmetics, shampoo, soaps, and even in food products and pharmaceutical drugs. Their purpose is to keep products smelling fresh and clean and to preserve shelf life. 

    Parabens are listed on the ingredient label in many different forms, but most often as these six:
    • Methylparaben
    • Ethylparaben
    • Isobutylparaben
    • Propylparaben
    • Benzylparaben
    • Butylparaben
    What Are the Health Effects?

    Tests conducted by the CDC show that over 90 percent of Americans have traces of parabens in their bodies. They are linked to fertility issues (such as lower sperm counts in men), early puberty in children, birth defects, organ toxicity, and even certain types of cancer. They also disrupt the functions of the endocrine system, which is the system that controls all your hormones. 

    Parabens can be absorbed into the skin, blood or digestive system. 

    They are often classified as "xenoestrogens," which means they mimic estrogen. Your body then thinks its getting too much estrogen, when in fact, its just these synthetic chemicals that are playing tricks on your body. The American Cancer Society has suggested that prolonged exposure to estrogen and progesterone may lead to breast cancer; and while parabens haven't been directly linked, the correlation exists. 

    How Can You Find Paraben-Free Products?

    It might be difficult to find them in your typical Big Box store. A place like Whole Foods or Trader Joes will have some options. Try to look for products that wouldn't even need a preservative, such as those made in small batches or those that contain the "natural" preservatives of vitamin C and vitamin E. Also, any product that doesn't contain water is always a great option (i.e. bar of soap, oil-based products).

    Finally, look for products that are USDA Certified Organic. That will guarantee they are free of chemical preservatives. 

    If you have any question about the products you use, you can refer to the Skin Deep database as a resource, which is on the Environmental Working Group's website (ewg.org/skindeep). This database will give you a toxicity rating of over 14,000 personal care products. There is also a Skin Deep app for smartphones that will actually scan in the product in question, right there in the store, and tell you the "grade" that product received and if it contains parabens.

    In the accompanying audio segment, Lisa and Ron Beres, Certified Green Building Professionals, join host Lisa Davis to share more about the dangers of parabens and how you can limit your exposure.
  • Book Title: Just GREEN It! Simple Swaps to Save the Planet + Your Health
  • Host: Andrea Donsky, RHN and Lisa Davis, MPH