Most people want to live a healthy life and avoid toxic chemicals that might affect our health in a negative way, sometimes living healthy and toxic-free can be difficult, specially if we are introducing chemicals in our bodies from sources that we do not even know. At the Health and Skin Center of Miami I make sure that every product that enters our inventory has the right ingredients to achieve a healthy skin now but also contains no harmful chemicals that might affect the health of our patients in the future.
I always had a special interest for cosmetic chemistry and always read and research the biomolecular properties of every single ingredient to make sure its safe. I decided to write about the dangers of parabens specially because when I became a mother for the first time 10 months ago I did a lot of research about the different ingredients that were in baby lotions, shampoos and specially baby diaper creams. I had the biggest surprise when I found that toxic chemicals were being widely used in these products, specially on the most popular brands like Johnson & Johnson for baby shampoo, lotion and DESITIN® for diaper rash cream.
What are Parabens? Parabens are chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives by many drug, cosmetic and food companies. They are used to fight bacteria and help products have longer shelf lives. Chances are that you have been exposed to these toxic chemicals because they are everywhere including your food, makeup, skin creams and cleaning products. Parabens will always have either a Butyl, Ethyl, Methyl or Propyl before the word paraben in an ingredient list.
Why Are Parabens So Bad?
Parabens are considered harmful because they mimic the hormone estrogen, and can cause breast cancer. In 2004, British cancer researcher Philippa Darbre discovered parabens in malignant breast tumors. Her research did not prove that parabens caused cancer, but it did show that they were easily found among cancerous cells.
Darbre said that she is especially concerned about deodorants and lotions being applied under the arms or near the breast. She mentioned that research suggests that about 55 percent of breast cancer tumors are found in the upper outside part of the breast, which is very close to the underarm.
How Can You Avoid Parabens?
It might not be possible to avoid parabens completely, but you can make a real effort on reducing your exposure. For one, you could start using more powder products, like mineral make-up and hard bar lotions, because they require less preservation.
You should also start reading ingredient labels and make sure that when you buy cosmetic products they come preferably from organic sources that use natural ingredients like grapefruit seed extract as preservative.
Additionally, try to avoid products that have fragrances. That vanilla lotion might smell amazing, but it contains a lot of harmful chemicals that are bad for your health. The Committee on Science & Technology said that 95 percent of the chemicals used in fragrances are derived from petroleum. Petroleum based chemicals may be harmful to the immune system and nervous system after prolonged exposure.
Parabens have been added to foods for more than 50 years, and their usage steadily increases year after year in response to the growing demand of prepared and processed foods. To avoid parabens in foods the best advise is to choose fresh ingredients that ideally come from an organic source and to avoid over-processed foods, specially frozen dairy items that have highest amount of parabens used as preservatives.
As long as the FDA continues to allow parabens in our food supply, cosmetic products and pharmaceuticals we have no choice but to take few extra steps to avoid them and live a healthier toxic-free life.