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  • Parabens – What Are They & Are They Harmful?

    Parabens – What Are They & Are They Harmful?

    Part of ‘being well’ is keeping our organs healthy, including your largest organ – your skin.
    I have a passion for cosmetics, especially natural cosmetics! Reason being is that they lack some of the dangerous chemicals that lurk in make up, shampoo, skin care and other persona; care products.
    The chemical I’m going to talk about in today’s blog post are parabens.
    What are they?
    Parabens are anti-fungal, antibacterial preservatives that are prevalent in makeup, shampoos, moisturizer and many other personal care lines.
    If you are using any cosmetic or pharmaceutical products on your skin or hair, you have a good chance that this chemical is present.
    So what’s wrong with parabens? Are they harmful?
    There a lot of both potential and proven dangers surrounding the use of this chemical.

    The Science

    A 2007 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology stated some disturbing information.

    ‘parabens can be measured intact in the human breast and possess oestrogenic properties, it has been suggested that they could contribute to an aberrant burden of oestrogen signalling in the human breast and so play a role in the rising incidence of breast cancer’

    That’s pretty scary stuff!
    So how can the FDA allow this preservative in our cosmetics since we put on our largest organ, our skin? Well, they say (whoever ‘they’ are) that there is no a ‘direct link’…. Whether the ‘danger’ link is direct or indirect, it’s difficult to argue when one reads studies like the one above. That’s like saying to a person: ‘This meal is delicious, so enjoy it, but we are not sure if it will make you sick.’ Would you eat it?
    The truth is, parabens are an inexpensive preservative. Natural preservatives are more expensive.
    A study in the Archives of Toxicology in 2002 determined that women are not the only ones in danger. Male mice were fed butylparaben in a dose dependent fashion in three groups: .01%, .10% and 1% in the diet for 10 weeks. Here’s what they found:

    ‘The serum testosterone concentration decreased in a dose-dependent fashion and was significant at 1.00%. These data demonstrated that butylparaben can exert an adverse effect on the male reproductive system at doses that are well below those of the accepted daily intake (ADI) in Japan.’

    Both sperm counts and testosterone dropped in these mice. Testosterone loss is not only significant from a sexual standpoint; it is also an energy hormone. It’s the hormone that makes men (and women) feel strong and vibrant.
    Elsevier’s Toxicology, Volume 227, documented findings on methylparaben’s effects on UV-induced skin damage. The findings were clear:

    ‘results indicate that methylparaben, which has been considered a safe preservative in cosmetics, may have harmful effects on human skin when exposed to sunlight.’

    Skin cancer is on the rise. Could the use of methylparaben on the skin be a part of the problem? I couldn’t find any studies, but it sure makes me wonder….
    I want to show both sides of the controversial story of parabens. I did some reading on the FDA’s website and here is what they say:

    FDA scientists continue to review published studies on the safety of parabens. At this time, we do not have information showing that parabens as they are used in cosmetics have an effect on human health.

    The European Scientific Committee published a paper on parabens in 2006. It said that:

    ‘the available data on parabens does not enable a decisive response to the question of safety. The EU allows concentrations up to .4% in cosmetic products.’


    So what does a person believe? There is most definitely controversy.
    A few years ago, I asked my dermatologist if he thought parabens were safe; his answer was yes. At the time, he was developing his own skin care line. When I asked if he would use parabens, he said no. He didn’t think his patients wanted parabens in their skin care. Well, in my case, he was correct.

    Identifying Parabens:

    So how does the consumer identify if a product has parabens? It will be on the label under ‘ingredients’, be it under several different names. Here are a few to look out for:
    • Methylparaben
    • Butylparaben
    • Ethylparaben
    • Propylparaben
    • Heptylparaben
    • Isobutylparaben
    • Isopropylparaben
    • Heptylparaben

    Chances are good that you have parabens lurking in your bathroom cabinet. When I first learned the dangers of parabens, I decided that I would dump products that had the chemical. I filled the waste basket! It was an awakening experience to say the least! I began replacing my cosmetics, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner with more natural products. It took me a long time to figure out what to look for so I wouldn’t have to read every single label of product that I bought.
    Here are a few buzz words that you will find that usually means a product has no parabens:

    Paraben-free – This may seem obvious. The raging controversy over parabens has nudged cosmetic companies to use this buzz word to market their products.
    Organic – I’ve never found an organic cosmetic, skin or hair care product with parabens in it.
    Vegan – The same goes for this buzz word. Companies that are producing vegan cosmetic products are uber-aware of ingredient safety.
    Naturally-Preserved – I have found that products that use this term, use more natural preservatives, such as essential oils.
    If you want a quick online reference tool to look up the safety of your cosmetics, check out: Skin Deep.
    It’s the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database. You can search for thousands of products and they rate them on a scale from 1 – 10. Products with a rating of 1 being the most safe, scaling upward to 10, into the danger zone. It’s a great reference tool! You can learn the potential hazards of many cosmetic chemicals.

    cosmetic database

    Safer Brands:

    It took me a lot of trial and error to find brands of cosmetics that I like that are safe and paraben-free. Here are a few products that I use and love.
    Hair Care:
    Surface Bassu Hydrating Oil Shine Protect Color Lock Vita-Complex. I LOVE this oil! I blow dry it into my hair when I want it smooth and shiny. I also use it on dry hair as an added protection against the dry climate that I live in.
    Giovanni Smooth As Silk Deep Moisture, Shampoo & Conditioner. I have been using this shampoo and conditioner for years! It comes at a reasonable price and is gentle.
    Surface Awaken Thickening Cream. When I’m looking for some voluminous hair in date-night, this is my go blow dry product. It gives your hair that sexy boost plus protects it from the heat of the dryer.
    Surface Trinity Protein Repair Tonic. My hairdresser suggested this great product to me and boy, was she great to do so. I tend beat my hair up with sun (from cycling), travel and lots of styling. This is my lifesaver in combination with their hydrating oil.
    Make Up
    Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream. I have been a fan of Jane Iredale cosmetics for more years than I can remember. I tried this BB cream at a spa and discovered that I love it. It’s very thick so I do water it down some with their D20 Hydration Spray. With this BB cream, a little goes a long way which spells value to me.
    Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Blush – The Sheer Honey is my shade. It’s pretty neutral and will cover any redness you may have. I’ve tried other brands but I keep going back to Jane’s blush.
    Skin Care
    Ecco Bella Revitalize Foursome. I recently purchased this for a trip. The price for 4 products at $153 seduced me. This is luxury skincare at a GREAT price! Revitalize Organic Facial Treatment Serum, Natural Deep Cleansing Gel, Mist on Toner, Natural Night Rebuilder, all vegan, 70% organic, water-free and preservative-free. They all feel sexy on the skin and are effective.
    Natural Age Antidote Day Skin Cream. This cream is antioxidant rich, touting high levels of vitamin C and E, plus has titanium dioxide as a sunscreen.
    These are some of my favorites. If you have a natural line that you love, please share with me! Send me a mail at: nina@ninacucina.com or post in on our FB Page
    Final Thoughts
    • Keep your largest organ (your skin), healthy by educating yourself in cosmetic ingredients, such as parabens.
    • Become aware of all the terms that mean: parabens.
    • Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep to learn the toxicity levels of the personal care products that you use.
    • Check out some natural products to purify your personal care regime.

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