Are parabens really bad for you?

Yes. Over the last few years, we have been hearing about the harmful effects of parabens – synthetic chemicals used as artificial preservatives in personal care and cosmetic products since the 1920s. Parabens are added to a product to slow down the rate biodegradation of the ingredients in the product. Parabens are meant to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and mould in the product. They help to increase the shelf life of the products. But these chemicals are harmful for us. They are known to disrupt bodily functions and lead to hormonal imbalances in our bodies.

You will find parabens in a wide range of products, especially those with high water content like shampoos, conditioners, body washes, body lotion, facial cleansers, creams, sunscreens and even colour cosmetics. Research shows that parabens are absorbed into the body through skin and are excreted as toxins through our body. While a little bit may not be really harmful, but daily use of products with parabens in them results in direct and continuous exposure to this chemical. Researchers have deemed it harmful for our body.

While parabens have been around in beauty, personal care and even some food products for decades, it’s in the recent years that research scientists have tested for this chemical’s presence in the body and their probable impact on our health. Researchers have found traces of parabens in the human body, signifying that when you apply any beauty care products, these chemicals get absorbed in the body and get into the bloodstream. This itself is quite an alarming situation, but research done in the early 2000’s shows that parabens disrupt the natural functioning of our body. They have a severe impact on the hormone functions and cause harm to the male and female reproductive systems. In fact, repeated lifelong exposure can lead to breast cancer.

According to the US-based Environmental Working Group’s report, scientific studies show that parabens affect the reproductive organs and harm fertility, affect infants, and increase the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer. Parabens actually mimic the hormone estrogen and increase its count beyond normal level, which in turn can trigger reactions like increased breast cell division and growth of malignant tumours.  Research done in the UK, in 2004 showed the presence of parabens in the tumours from breast cancer patients. Moreover, parabens can lead to increased skin sensitivity, which can make your skin more prone to allergic reactions and other related issue concerns.

So, when you are buying a beauty or personal care product, look for paraben-free mark in the label; or read the ingredient list to check for nomenclature like butyl-paraben, methylparaben, isobutyl paraben, propylparaben and isopropylparaben. If any of these is listed on the label, then it is a good idea to avoid the product for long-term health benefits. 

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