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What Are Parabens? (+Why You Should Avoid Them)

You probably see the term “paraben-free” all over. This is because we are beginning to learn about the harmful side-effects to common ingredients. Without knowing what they are, you would still probably assume they are bad. But did you ever wonder “what are parabens?” Let me explain….

Have you ever seen a beauty product say "paraben-free," and wonder to yourself, "what are parabens?"  Learn all about parabens right now!

So What Are Parabens?

Parabens are a type of preservative that you can typically find in hair and beauty products, along with some pharmaceuticals and food additives. For all of you chemists out there, these are “a series of parahydroxybenzoates or esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid (also known as 4-hydroxybenzoic acid).” In layman’s terms, that means they are very efficient preservatives (with bactericidal and fungicidal properties) that don’t cost much.

That sounds great! So, what’s the big deal?

Parabens go hand-in-hand with cancer, along with other serious health concerns. They were originally believed to directly cause cancer, but newer studies are suggesting that this may not be true. The Food and Drug Administration has said that parabens are safe to use with no side-effects at levels up to 25%, which is far higher than those used in cosmetics.

Paraben Free Tag

According to LiveStrong‘s website, “In 2004, findings from a study published in the “Journal of Applied Toxicology” were released indicating that parabens may play a role in the development of certain types of breast cancer. Specifically, parabens act like estrogen, which may increase the risk of women developing estrogen-positive breast cancer.”

However, the FDA states that “the study left several questions unanswered. For example, the study did not show that parabens cause cancer, or that they are harmful in any way, and the study did not look at possible paraben levels in normal tissue. FDA is aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.”

The risk is only yours to take. Although there are multiple types of parabens, there are some more common than others. This includes methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Do you use paraben-free shampoo? What are your thoughts on this article? Please leave your comments below!