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Parabens refers to a group of chemicals, which can be found in food products, cosmetics, personal hygiene products, and pharmaceuticals. You may have seen some products with labels advertising that they are ‘paraben-free’, however, if you still wonder ‘what are parabens’ or why you should avoid them, read on for all you need to know.
What are parabens?
Parabens are synthetic chemicals, derived from the chemical para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA). The most commonly used types of paraben include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben.
Now that we have answered the question ‘what are parabens’, let’s look at why they are used in cosmetic and hygiene products. These products contain ingredients that can biodegrade, and so parabens are added to prolong their shelf life by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and mould.
They are highly effective preservatives and have become the most widely used preservatives in personal care products. Aside from this, they are hypoallergenic and don’t cost much to produce.
Which products contain parabens?
A wide range of leave-on and wash-off hygiene and cosmetic products contain parabens, particularly products with high water content, such as shampoo and conditioner. They are also found in facial and skin cleansers, moisturisers, deodorant, sunscreen, shaving gel, makeup, toothpaste, and more. Furthermore, they are used to preserve a variety of food products.
When it comes to paraben exposure, this refers to these products being either absorbed through the skin or swallowed.
As well as parabens, many of the above cosmetic products also contain sulphates, which are chemical detergents, as they are effective in cleansing and foaming. Therefore, they are often found in toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, and other hygiene products.
Why are parabens and sulphates bad?
One major concern with sulphates is that, although they are a common ingredient in shampoos, they are actually such effective cleansers that they strip your hair of its natural oils and moisture, leaving it dry and brittle. Sulphate-free shampoos contain gentler cleansers that will leave your hair softer and shinier.
More importantly, in some cases, products containing sulphates can cause irritation to the eyes and skin, which could lead to contact dermatitis. Furthermore, they have been found to break down proteins which can lead to a degenerative effect on cell membranes, and they have also been found to leave residue on the heart, lungs, and brain.
Parabens also come with risks. Since they around found in so many products that we use every day, the levels in our bloodstreams can add up.
The worry with parabens is that they can act like the hormone estrogen. This can affect the functioning of both male and female reproductive systems, as well as fertility and birth outcomes.
It is well known that estrogen is linked to cancer, and so there is growing concern that, since parabens mimic estrogen in the body, they can switch on cancer genes and accelerate the growth of breast cancer cells. Whilst research is ongoing, there is evidence to support this hypothesis.
There is an ongoing debate about how serious the effects of sulphates and parabens are, however, many believe that it is better to be safe than sorry whilst the research continues.
Paraben and sulphate-free products
It’s important to be aware that product labels won’t simply list ‘parabens’ or ‘sulphates’ on their list of ingredients. They usually have a prefix or postfix, for example, calcium sulphate, or methylparaben.
Urbane Man is committed to providing products that are not only highly effective and enjoyable to use, but that are also safe for consumers. That’s why when you shop with us you can rest assured that our products are natural and free of harmful chemicals.