Monday, August 19, 2013

Lesson on Parabens

I have used the same red organizer for close to a decade and take lots of random notes in the back. About four years ago I read an article about beauty product toxins and wrote down the top three ingredients to avoid: parabens, phthalates, and propylene glycol. Its written right between my friend Alison's address and list of B&Bs I want to visit in Washington someday. There are several favorite products that I have been loyal to for years and years:
  • my Mario Badescu skin routine which I discovered around 2000 (was loaded with Propylparaben and Propylene Glycol)
  • my Lubriderm lotion that I've used after every single shower or bath since I was THIRTEEN, or about fifteen years (propylene glycol, methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and fragrance - YIKES)
  • my L'Occitane shea butter hand lotion (full of propylene glycol and fragrance/parfum). 
After doing my assessment I remember thinking "oh well...." and quickly forgot all about the toxins list. At that moment I wasn't ready to change. Fast forward two years when Ed was diagnosed with Leukemia and I was frantic to change everything I could.

Endocrine Disruptors: Lesson on Parabens

Parabens are chemicals commonly used as preservatives that can extend the life of the skin care products by months or years. They are widely found in lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup and shampoo and are easily absorbed into your skin.  Parabens can mimic hormones in the body and disrupt functions of the endocrine system. The human body does not easily break down synthetic estrogen and it can accumulate in fat tissue, including breast tissue.

Parabens and Breast Cancer

There is a HUGE connection between parabens and breast cancer. The January, 2012 issue of The Journal of Applied Technology features a study led by Dr. Philippa Darbre from the University of Reading in the UK which found parabens in 99% of the breast cancer tumors studied. NINETY NINE PERCENT!!! Another study also by Dr. Darbre shows exposure to parabens cause breast cancer cells to rapidly multiply and spread (article). Deodorant use is especially concerning because of the close proximity to breast tissue and ease of absorption.

Early Puberty

Endocrine disruptors such as parabens can lead to early puberty in adolescent girls and boys as reported by the New York Times. Endocrinologists have observed the age of puberty decreasing the past several decades and have seen little girls as young as eight exhibit breast development. Margaret, from Judy Blume's "Are You There God? Its Me Margaret" was chanting "I must, I must, I must increase my bust" at age 14 back in 1970. Fourteen to as young as eight is a huge age difference over four decades. This is a major concern because studies have shown girls who start puberty earlier are more likely to develop breast and uterine cancer later in life.  The occurrence of breast cancer is three times higher in women who started puberty before age twelve. The National Institutes of Health funded the study as part of a larger investigation into the environmental factors that contribute to breast cancer risk. Parabens also effect young boys and can lead to testicular enlargement and breast development.

Decreased Sperm Levels

The Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health published a study examining paraben exposure to three week old rats. After four weeks they found the rat's sperm production significantly decreased in relation to the amount of parabens they had received. Those receiving the highest dose of parabens, which was consisent with the daily acceptable intake of parabens in Europe and Japan, showed significant decrease in sperm concentration. I love my lotions and am sure I used way more than the standard acceptable intake - scary, scary.

What you can do....

I wish there was another option because I am VERY attached to my beauty products, especially my Lubriderm. Friends know this about me - I have a weird habit of putting it on my feet every night before bed.  I can't remember not having Lubriderm on my bedside table.... The best option to protect yourself is to buy products that do not have parabens.

I've learned to completely ignore pretty packaging and deceptive marketing verbage like "natural" or "pure" and now only look at the ingredients. Johnson & Johnson just lost a $1.8 million class action lawsuit for their "Neutrogena Naturals" line because there is nothing natural about it - synthetic and loaded with toxins. I actually fell for this and was really excited because Neutrogena Naturals are cheap and at my Harris Teeter - should have known better.... As a consumer I feel like I have been purposefully left in the dark about the dangers lurking inside my beauty products. Did you know that Europe bans 1,342 toxic chemicals from personal care products and the US bans only 10?! Manufacturers must clean up their products for European distribution, but they leave the nasty stuff in for Americans. All because its cheaper and no one is stopping them. Washington is OWNED by big companies. The FDA - the people who protect us from dangerous products and drugs - is a committee of executives from the largest personal care product companies and they make their own rules. Its time America puts health over profits, but thats a whole other post.

What I do:

I follow the 80/20 rule with many things in life. 80% of the time I make good, healthy choices and the other twenty I'll cheat a little bit. I've been trying new products for two years and have spent more than Ed needs to know hoping to fall in love with my beauty routine again. Lots and lots of fails. Many natural products have textures and smells different from the synthetic versions I was used to. I tried many Burt's Bees product and kinda like their Milk and Honey body lotion. I have been using their fragrance free baby products for Olivia. Also liked, but not loved the "Say Yes to Carrots" body lotion."Gud" pear shampoo and conditioner was horrible. Aveda products dry my hair out and leave a film. I like the Everyday Shea Foaming unscented hand soap but think its given me dermatitis from my wedding ring (this could also be from my Mrs. Meyer's dish soap).

Deodorant has been a challenge. Jason's deodorant worked for a couple days and then quit on me and so did Tom's. I would still sweat and smelled musky. I haven't tried any of the crystals, but have been curious. My sister told me about using Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with water and it works pretty well - has been my best solution to date. To be perfectly honest I don't wear deodorant every day anymore because I don't get to the gym and sweat like I used to since having Olivia

I am switching out my makeup as I run out of it and its taking a while since I barely wear it anymore.  Every time Ed sees me wearing eyeliner he asks if its date night! I have switched to Bare Minerals Mineral Veil and am wanting to try more mineral makeups.  One of my 20% cheats will be mascara - I have had a long term love affair with eyelashes and my L'Oreal Voluminous will be the last thing I switch.  Plus eyelashes are barely attached to your skin, right? Lipgloss has been a tough one for me too, I'm addicted. There is an awesome website called Skin Deep Cosmetic Database that is run by the Environmental Working Group and it gives over 65,000 products a 0 to 10 hazard rating. It's definitely going to be a process to find replacements but it is a huge priority for me and my health.


  1. Have you checked out La Vanilla products? I switched to their deodorant after Hank was born because I was nursing and his fragile little self was too close to my armpits for extended periods of time. :) For a natural deodorant, I think it works pretty well! Plus, no parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, silicones, propylene glycol, sulfates or aluminum! It does have fragrance, though I think they're all plant-based.

    I'm enjoying your blog!

  2. So glad you're enjoying it! I am definitely going to check out La Vanilla deodorant and thank you for the recommendation. I'm still trying the Ava Anderson Non-Toxic one and am not sure its going to be my solution - its better than the other sticks I've tried but I'm a little self conscious by the end of the day.... I do however LOVE their bar soap and lotion - my chicken skin arms are almost all gone :) The anti-aging serum is really nice too and I love the $29 price point.

  3. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post. Breast cancer

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