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Are parabens really that bad?


There's lots of info about parabens - what do you think? Is it as bad for you as they say? Will it disrupt hormone levels? Are you looking for and buying paraben-free products??
Apr 09, 2014 @ 11:24 am

4 Replies


what parabens are believed to do

Parabens have not been 100% proven to be bad for you. That said, just because something's not 100% proven does not mean it's 100% bogus. It just means science is still figuring it out.

And who knows? In 20 years we might look back on parabens (and other chemicals/superfoods/insert thing we're avoiding or promoting here) and realize we got it all wrong. Not the first time scientists have had to eat humble pie.

Here's what I've "learned" (read here: have heard/read but I'm not a researcher so take my information with a grain of salt).

1. Most parabens are man-made but they are also naturally occurring in some foods, including blueberries, carrots, strawberries, barley, and more (among other sources, I found that info here).

2. Parabens are used as a preservative in cosmetics and beauty products. Obviously there are also risks with using products (or foods) that are expired, so that's why we use preservatives. It's also why pickles are stored in brine and sugar is added to fruit when making jam. We use natural and artificial preservatives in most everything, and that's not in and of itself a dangerous idea. In some cases, it would be much more dangerous to eat foods or use products that are spoiled or contaminated with molds, etc.

3. Parabens are believed to be estrogen mimics (source: US FDA). Both men and women's bodies naturally produce estrogen for regular body function. Estrogen mimics are believed to interrupt normal hormone balance by binding to estrogen receptors and interfering with proper hormone function. This may affect puberty (e.g. earlier onset), fertility (e.g. low sperm count in men, endometriosis in women), and more. (Source: my university education in which I specialized in Environmental Health and wrote a major term paper on artificial estrogens in farming communities)

4. Parabens have been approved for use in cosmetics up to concentrations of 25%; however, most products use less than 0.5% concentration. An industry-sponsored (read here: not exactly unbiased) agency was responsible for these recommendations, which the US FDA accepted. The findings have since been reevaluated and upheld. To me, this isn't much comfort as governmental agencies are (a) pressured by industry groups/special interests, and (b) are only interested in rock-solid 100% proof which we do not have yet.

It's important to keep in mind that parabens are just one of many suspected estrogen mimics currently found in our food, water, personal care items, etc. In a perfect world, we'd all go back to the good ol' days when we ate food grown in our backyards without chemicals, got plenty of exercise and fresh air, and reduced our stresses.

To demonize parabens just by themselves is to ignore the 1000s of bad decisions we make every single day, including driving in rush hour traffic, using strong chemicals to disinfect our homes (enabling superbugs and also eliminate beneficial bacteria), cut out certain (presumably healthy) foods in the name of dieting without actually consulting a nutritionist, and more.

I personally think it's a good idea to steer clear of parabens. That said, I think it's more important to look at our lifestyles as the sum of our decisions rather than removing one stressor and ignoring the rest. As a society, we've been dying of cancer, diabetes, viruses, and more for 1000s of years. Our modern lifestyle may be making our vulnerabilities much worse, but nature has always been fighting us and its other predators all along (think snake venom, poison ivy, etc).

Just my two cents :)
Apr 10, 2014 @ 11:40 am


@mamaluv - that two cents is worth a million bucks! What a clear, sensible and really smart answer - Thanks.
Apr 12, 2014 @ 08:40 am


Honestly, I don't buy into the whole "Parabens are terrible for you and you shouldn't use products that have parabens in them!" I know one of my friends bought into it so hard that she trashed all her beauty products that had parabens in them.

I would choose not to purchase items with parabens in them if it's an obvious easy option. But I'm not overly concerned about them being in products I use.
Apr 12, 2014 @ 04:23 pm


First off let me say, thank you for such an indepth look at parabens mamaluv. That was a very informative, well written piece. Our didn't know anything about paraben's and am now going to look up more info. Yes you are definitely right with what you have said about the government being pressured etc.

As usual I think all things in moderation is your best bet. Too much of anything can be harmful so do your research like mamaluv did and act accordingly.
Jun 02, 2014 @ 07:21 am

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