There is plenty of talk about parabens lately and more and more new paraben free products are launching on the market – but what exactly are parabens, what is their effect on the body and how can you tell if they are in your food, body care or home ware products?
What are parabens?
Parabens are low-cost chemical compounds used in personal care, pharmaceutical and food industry products to inhibit the growth of growth of bacteria and fungus.
They are commonly found in day to day household items including lotions, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, hairspray, moisturisers, make-up and toothpaste as well as food like jams, jellies, syrups, baked good, processed vegetables, pickles, sauces, fats, oils, seasoning, sugar substitutes, coffee extracts, fruit juices, frozen dairy products, beer and soft drinks.
How can I tell if they are in my product?
Labelling is a tricky business and you won’t see “PARABENS” listed on your product’s ingredients label. Some common compounds to look out for however include methyl (E218), ethyl (E214), propyl (E216), and butyl (E209) p-hydroxybenzoate.
What do parabens do to my body?
While the levels of paraben found in food are lower than in personal care products, there is growing concern about skin exposure, ingestion and inhalation of parabens. Skin contact and absorption appears to be the primary method of exposure.
In cosmetics, paraben compounds were found in 99% of leave-on products and in 77% of rinse-off products with concentrations up to 0.8% of the product. It’s estimated that adult women and teenage girls use up to 20 individual personal care products each day which presents chronic exposure to compounds that we know aren’t ideal for our health.
For example, parabens have been known to provoke allergic reactions and skin rashes. Methyl, ethyl and propyl paraben are almost always found as the culprits in allergic reactions and while they are considered to be weak allergens, they appear to produce reactions when applied to damaged skin.
Further, results from skin cancer studies show that when applied to the skin, methyl paraben reacts with the sun’s UVB rays and can lead to premature ageing, DNA damage and the production of healthy cells. It is even thought that parabens, when combined with other endocrine disrupting chemicals may influence the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
That’s why it’s so important to choose paraben free skincare products, particularly if you have dry, sensitive or problem skin.
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