The more I learn about the importance of not only what we put IN our bodies but what we put ON our bodies the more passionate I am about reading every label thorougly and trying to avoid as many harmful chemicals as possible, in particular Parabens and Phthalates as they can severely mess with your entire endocrine system. I have already done a blog post on the most harmful chemicals to look out for in cosmetic products but I wanted to do an entirely separate post on parabens and phthalates as I think they are two of the most important to stay away from as much as possible.
Coming from someone who loves makeup, your health is far too important to ignore the dangerous effects of these chemicals. It is not worth it! There are plenty of natural and organic alternatives out there. Start researching more and decide for yourself if you think your health is important enough to avoid these chemicals.
What are Parabens?
Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives, and that’s why they are found in so many products. They are used to fight bacteria and fungus, are widely available, and cost very little to manufacture and use. Nearly all of the parabens used as preservatives are man-made and not naturally occurring.
Why are Parabens bad?
Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers. Researchers have found parabens in breast tumors and believe there is a relationship between parabens and tumors. And in the July 2002 issue of the Archives of Toxicology, Dr. S. Oishi of the Department of Toxicology, Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health reported that exposure of newborn male mammals to butylparaben “adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.” If a causal link between a chemical and cancer is not enough to avoid a product that can easily be avoided, I don’t know what is. There are a lot of other reports available all over the internet, but most of them are all related to reproductive health in some way or another.
One of the most vocal is Philippa Darbre, a senior lecturer in oncology and researcher in biomolecular sciences at the University of Reading, in England. She specializes in the impact of estrogen on breast cancer. In 2004, Darbre’s team published a pivotal study that detected parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from breast tumour biopsies. Her study didn’t prove parabens cause cancer, only that they were easily detected among cancerous cells. The study was criticized for not comparing paraben levels in normal tissue, but nevertheless, the results called out for more investigation.
“We’ve known for more than 25 years that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression; it is the reason tamoxifen [commonly prescribed to women with breast cancer] is used to disrupt estrogen receptors,” says Darbre. “So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic estrogen might be having an impact.”
Darbre is particularly concerned about lotions and deodorants being applied under the arms or near the breast, and hasn’t used underarm deodorant herself for 10 years, opting instead to use just soap and water. She notes that research has found that roughly 55 percent of all breast cancer tumours occur in the upper outside portion of the breast, the section closest to the underarm. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has partly dismissed the claim, maintaining that at present, there is no decisive evidence to conclude that the parabens in these products are linked to breast cancer, but that more research is needed.
In December 2011, Halyna Breslawec — Chief Scientist of Personal Care Product Council — stated that, “The cosmetics industry formally requested that the [Cosmetics Ingredient Review] (CIR) re-examine the safety of parabens as they are used in cosmetics and we are gratified that the panel has done so and confirmed the safety of these ingredients.” This decision has pulled down a curtain to years of controversies about parabens and is appreciated by the Consumer Federation of America and the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Types of Parabens to look out for:
There are different types of parabens. According to the FDA, methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben are commonly used in cosmetics. Isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben and benzylparaben are other types of parabens.
What are Phthalates?
Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers (which are substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility and durability) in products such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) shower curtains, baby toys, enteric coatings of pills, paint, floor tiles, makeup, hair spray, food containers, nail polish, liquid soap – the list goes on and on. Becoming popular in the 1930′s, phthalates are in many products that we come into contact with on a daily basis. As with most chemical compounds at one time or another, most everyone thought phthalates were inert and harmless, but we are now finding out quite the opposite.
Why are Phthalates bad?
Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and estrogen mimics. For this alone, one would want to avoid them where possible. They’ve also been linked to metabolic disorders and hepatocarcinogenicity. When choosing a cosmetic product, natural really does matter. There are alternatives – just because it isn’t listed on the label, doesn’t mean that it is absent. Read labels carefully!
Studies show that men’s reproductive system is especially sensitive to phthalates, especially when exposed to them while in utero, with some phthalates producing extreme male genital defects. Other studies have noted a reduction in semen production as well. Phthalates have also been known to cause other reproductive and developmental toxicity. This is all based on women being exposed to phthalates while pregnant. Phthalates exposure has been linked to breast cancer (especially if women have a predisposition to breast cancer) and testicular cancer in men. Phthalates exposure has also been linked to neurological and behavioral difficulties. Other studies have linked phthalates to obesity and a diabetic risk. As of 2009, California has banned the use of phthalates in childrens’ toys and childcare articles. It is illegal to sell, manufacture, or distribute these items.
Phthalates also cause decreased sperm levels. If your significant male other has a problem with his “boys,” check out the products he uses, including those in his car. Benzylbutyl phthalate is commonly found in car care products.