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The word “preservative” evokes strong reactions—maybe that’s due to their reputation for causing other reactions. That being said, preservation is essential. It means you don’t need to buy every consumable you use every time you need it, and you don’t have to constantly make small batches of your own products. Shelf life is not a bad thing, but the way it’s achieved can be.
The key word here is “can.” You have a choice between harsh chemical preservatives and furry blue stuff that was lotion in a former life. But first, let’s look at a very common class of preservatives called parabens to see why we feel they can be scary.
The perils of parabens
Parabens are a common preservative used in many cosmetics to extend their shelf life, but they could actually be shortening yours. They prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeasts, and are found in almost all chemical sunscreens. Unfortunately, they’ve also been linked to breast cancer and a host of health issues.
Parabens increase the expression of genes that would otherwise be naturally regulated by your hormones. (i)(ii) Your body has “instructions” built in to help it determine what proteins are needed by each cell and when to produce them. This process is called gene expression, and parabens confuse these instructions. Parabens are proven estrogen mimickers that can stimulate the division of cancerous cells in breasts and even cause ovarian aging in women. (iii) Even the FDA concedes that parabens “act similarly to estrogen,” and that “estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer.” (iv)
And guys, you’re not immune here either. Studies have linked parabens to low sperm mobility and count. Children are at risk, too, since parabens can lead to early onset puberty. (v)
We’ve all heard the myth that if you swallow gum it stays in your digestive system for seven years. While we now know the gum scare isn’t actually true, this tendency to stick around is true when it comes to parabens. They penetrate the surface of your skin, make it to your bloodstream and remain inside your body. Designed to persevere in products, parabens accumulate in fat cells and have been identified in breast tumors. And the FDA permits levels of up to 25-percent in cosmetic products! (vi)
Even if your only goal when buying sunscreen is to protect your skin, parabens are a no-no. According to Time Magazine, “Studies indicate methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB (the burning rays), leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.” Two parabens have even been outlawed in Denmark, although they’re still allowed in the U.S.(vii)
We stand against parabens!
None of that sounds super fun, right? So why would companies choose parabens over other options? The simple answer is that parabens are cheap and they work. We’re using “work” loosely here since parabens solve one problem, but create a bunch of others, but parabens are very powerful. This means they don’t need to use a lot to extend the shelf life, which further helps keep the cost down.
Our preservative systems costs us quite a bit more to make and use, but our customers’ health is a priority for us. And we hope it’s just one more reason you’ll want to give chemicals the bird!
- Give Chemicals the Bird: Phthalates
- What Are Phthalates and Parabens?
- Give Chemicals the Bird: Fragrance
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