What are parabens and why might they be bad for us?
Parabens are a group of chemicals extensively used to artificially preserve cosmetic and body care products and extend their shelf-life. For decades, they’ve been used in a great many everyday products such as shampoo, conditioners, makeup, body lotion, and soap.
But why is there a growing number of people trying to cut them out of their lives? There's good reason and scientific data to prove it.
Are parabens bad for us?
Since some ingredients in cosmetics and body care products biodegrade over time, parabens are added to slow the growth of harmful bacteria and increase the product’s lifespan. Sounds practical, but research has shown that parabens can interfere with your body’s hormones, cause harm to fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer. In a study of a group of diverse American adults, parabens were found in nearly all urine samples (Ye et al., 2006).
Are parabens bad for the planet?
Sadly, parabens are now also known to damage the environment. Low levels of butylparaben are capable of killing coral (Danaovaro 2008). Parabens have also been found in fish and sediments (Haman 2015).
(If you’re interested in the studies themselves, we’ve included a list of all the research we’ve mentioned at the end of the blog).
How can I tell if there are parabens in a product?
As a low-cost solution, you can imagine that parabens are a widely popular ingredient. Thankfully, thanks to modern science, we now know to avoid them. The first step is knowing what you’re looking for.
Have a good read of the ingredients in your favourite body lotion or deodorant. Parabens are not highlighted like other allergens and other ingredients that might be risky to some people. They’re hidden in names like butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
How can I go paraben-free?
Thankfully, once you know about the potential harmful effects of parabens, it is possible to reduce your exposure to them. It’s important to mention that when they are present, the levels of parabens in any given formula are very small, so don’t panic. What you can do, though, is begin to swap out your paraben-containing cosmetics and body care products for paraben-free alternatives. A simple Google search should introduce you to many good alternatives.
Our shampoo bars are not only paraben-free, but free from artificial ingredients, as well as being plastic-free, cruelty-free, sulphate-free and made with sustainable RSPO palm oil. They’re also vegan and made down the road from us in cosy Devon, UK. Read the full ingredients list on our website.
Boberg J, Axelstad M, Svingen T, Mandrup K, Christiansen A, Vinggaard AM, Hass U. 2016. Multiple Endocrine Disrupting Effects in Rats Perinatally Exposed to Butylparaben. Toxicological Sciences 152(1) 244-256.
Byford JR, Shaw LE, Drew MG, Pope GS, Sauer MJ, Darbre PD. 2002. Oestrogenic activity of parabens in MCF7 human breast cancer cells. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 80(1): 49-60.
Danovaro, R., Bongiorni, L., Corinaldesi, C., Giovannelli, D., Damiani, E., Astolfi, P., Greci, L., & Pusceddu, A. (2008). Sunscreens cause coral bleaching by promoting viral infections. Environmental health perspectives, 116(4), 441–447. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.10966
Smith KW, Souter I, Dimitriadis I, Ehrlich S, Williams PL, Calafat AM, Hauser R. 2013. Urinary paraben concentrations and ovarian aging among women from a fertility center. Environ Health Perspect 121(11-12):1299-305.
United Nations Environment Program. International Panel on Chemical Pollution. 2017. Worldwide initiatives to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and potential EDCs. https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/25633/EDC_report1.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Vo TT, Yoo YM, Choi KC, Jeung EB. 2010. Potential estrogenic effect(s) of parabens at the prepubertal stage of a postnatal female rat model. Reprod Toxicol 29(3):306-316.