A Closer Look at Cosmetic Ingredients #1: Parabens

Today, I really want to talk to you guys about parabens. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really and truly taken an active interest in learning more about them and their impact on the body. In fact, this morning I found the  Lush “Eau Roma Water” toner that I misplaced (it was on top of the microwave wtf) and happily spritzed it all over my face. Afterwards I naively thought “oh shit, I haven’t even checked the ingredients but its Lush I can trust them right?”. Wrong. Perfume and Methylparaben; two things I’d like to avoid putting on my face and into my body, both present in an 8-ingredient product.

Parabens are chemicals that are used primarily as preservatives in cosmetic products. Although the chemicals themselves do not cause cancer, they mimic the oestrogen hormone. Just as a refresher, the oestrogen hormone is secreted by the ovaries which play an important role in the development of secondary female sex characteristics and stimulates the release of the LH hormone from the pituitary gland. When the body has too much of this hormone, breast cell division increases, which can lead to tumours and growths. In a British study conducted in 2004, 95% of the women tested had parabens within their breast tissue, and there have been many similar findings in the bodies of aquatic mammals – Not great.

According to the World Health Organisation, parabens come under the umbrella term EDCs (Endocrine disrupting chemicals) and could be linked to thyroid disorders, low sperm counts, hormonal cancers, reproductive issues, ADHD and many more conditions. More thorough and extensive testing is needed in order to truly know whether parabens are as harmful as they appear, but it certainly doesn’t sound good.

The most common parabens that you’ll likely come across in your cosmetic products are:

  1. methylparaben
  2. ethylparaben
  3. n-propylparaben
  4. n-butylparaben
  5. isobutylparaben

Two less common:

  1. Isopropylparaben
  2. benzylparaben

In 2014, the EU enforced a ban on five parabens from cosmetic products; isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben and pentylparaben. A little confusingly, I was looking to replace an eyeshadow primer I was given as a gift because I loved it. I went to check it out on the UK Urban Decay website:

The fact that this product needs FIVE parabens isn’t even the most striking issue here – it’s the supposedly banned Isobutylparaben in the ingredients list?

Perhaps it’s because we are doing the hokey pokey* (aka hokey kokey, depending on where you’re from ) with the EU since the whole Brexit situation that means this law no longer applies? Or perhaps because it’s not manufactured in the UK? I don’t know the answer to this but it certainly has not put me at ease. Fear not, Urban Decay fans – they are soon to be releasing a totally paraben free alternative (in their range of eyeshadow primers some of them are already paraben free too!).

In short, I think that it’s important to know a little bit more about what we are putting into our bodies and the environment and being aware of chemicals such as parabens that are still a little bit of a grey-area in terms of their long term effects. I am using this as a personal starting point to use more natural and less harmful products in my home and on my body.  I am currently undergoing testing for a potential thyroid problem as it is not functioning quite how it should. Parabens or otherwise, I’m going to look after myself better and be more aware of what I’m using.

Hopefully this has been at least a little helpful for some of you. As I’ve said many times, I’m no expert but I’ve certainly learned a few things having done some research.

(*the hokey pokey/kokey is a weird dance every single British person grew up doing – usually spontaneously and for no reason)



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