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Are parabens harmful or are the warnings just hype?

Are parabens harmful or are the warnings just hype?

You've probably heard the buzz over parabens or seen product labels beginning to scream "Paraben Free" lately, but is all the scary hype keeping you up at night? To be sure, parabens, as well as other chemicals added to skin care products, are harmful to your health. What we know about parabens should be enough to have them banned, but any harmful effects from the synergism of multiple toxins in our bodies is still unknown.

Let's cover the facts. Parabens come in various forms (methyl, ethyl, propyl and benzyl) and are used as cheap and effective preservatives for personal-care products such as shampoos, conditioners, deodorants and sunscreens. Parabens are why products can survive the three-month boat trip from China, sit on store and warehouse shelves for years and are able to be exposed to extreme temperatures.

But how can something applied externally be a concern? There's no disputing the fact that chemicals can and do enter our bodies through the skin; just look at how many drugs now come in patch form. A recent Danish study showed that when parabens are applied as a cream to the backs of healthy male volunteers, the chemicals can be measured in the blood literally within hours. "This demonstrates that parabens do indeed penetrate the human skin from cosmetic products," said University of Reading researcher Philippa Darbre, whose research team was the first to detect parabens in human tissue.

Parabens, though they have been on the market for decades, have now been shown to mimic estrogen, disrupting our bodies' endocrine (hormone) system and have been found completely intact in human breast tumors, possibly linking them to breast cancer. Sounds like enough information to us to have them banned, but apparently not for the FDA. But in all fairness, we don't think that parabens are the only chemical to worry about. Known problems with sodium laurel/laureth sulfate, phthalates, 1,4-Dioxane, and others, leads us to wonder about the safety of all chemicals in our skin care products and the environment as a whole.

Neurological disorders like autism have soared, increasing in cases by as much as 810% in the past 13 years. In addition, rates for childhood diabetes, life-threatening allergies, and alarmingly early puberty cases are rising to shocking heights. Something is definitely wrong in our world and getting worse.

In the search for answers, researchers single out and test countless substances looking for the smoking gun. But bombarded with chemicals on a daily basis, there is no way to isolate one single chemical's effects inside our body. We are a veritable test tube of chemical toxins interacting with each other. Though banned more than 30 years ago, DDT can still be found in the bodies of young children around the globe. The synergistic effects of multiple toxins, everything from fluoride to Teflon to parabens and more, may be too hard to pin down. Add into this toxic soup the numerous chemical compounds of prescription drugs willing swallowed everyday, and you just begin to see the problem with the body's overload.

Parabens may not end up being the smoking gun for breast cancer, but we should all be given the opportunity to buy products without them. But let's not hold parabens up as the only chemical to avoid.  Our quest at Caren for effective, natural skin care is driven by this principle: The more chemical-free products bought, the less chemicals are produced and thus the less added to the environment. We don't know about you, but that helps us sleep just a little bit better at night.

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