What is a paraben, and why should we care, anyway?

Did you do your homework?

There is an old joke that goes, “What’s a paradox”? A pair of doctors, of course. I can hear the collective groan, as it is a pretty corny joke. The answer to the question, “What is a paraben”? is not much funnier.

Very simply put, a paraben is a chemical compound that is widely used in cosmetics, skin and body care products, and even food, as a preservative. Certainly, we all know that most packaged and highly processed foods are full of preservatives, but skin care products and cosmetics? Yup.

Paraben, in all of their many types, methyl, eythl, propyl, buetyl, are used in cosmetics and skin care products to inhibit the growth of bacteria and molds. Think about it–you are dipping your fingers into the jar time and again, or sticking that mascara wand back into the tube over and over, and as clean as you may be, there are still germs. And who knows how long that jar of whatever has been sitting on the shelf already! So, what is so bad about these paraben preservatives?

In the body, parabens mimic, or act like, estrogen. We females already have as much as we need, and there is a huge link between estrogen and breast cancer. We know that all of the stuff that we put on our bodies gets absorbed through the sink right into our bodies. The nicotine patch proves that. So, there go those parabens, acting like estrogen, right into us each time we use a paraben containing product.

Word on the street about the dangers of parabens differs a lot, with some saying they are safe, and others disagreeing. The cosmetic industry claims that the amount of parabens in a given product is about 1 to 2%, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot. However, it has been estimate that most women apply 12 of these paraben containing products to their bodies each day! Yikes! Add that up, day after day, year after year. That makes it sound a bit less benign, doesn’t it?

So, what can we do to avoid parabens, and still avoid bacteria and molds? Natural skin care products use natural preservatives, such as vitamin E, grape seed oil, and lecithin. A natural skin care product using grape seed oil as a preservative has a shelf life of 18 months.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to a face cream, I use about a 1.7 ounce jar per month. Some body lotions and washes last a bit longer, but if you’ve had most anything for 18 months, you are either not using it and it should be tossed, or it’s been open too long and should be tossed, too.

We are all learning to buy fresh foods, and to make our meals from fresh ingredients, rather than from a box. Fresh is good for food, don’t we want the same for what we slather over our bodies? Besides, things like vitamin C, and other good stuff in skin care products lose their effectiveness as time goes on, so why would we want or need anything that lasts more then a few months, let alone 18 months?

Naturally preserved, and freshly made skin care products need no parabens and there is no worry about a cancer risk. You can start by making your own facial cleanser, one that you mix fresh in a minute, first thing every morning, and without a drop of preservatives. I will be back later today to post a few recipes! One by one, you can find ways and products to replaces those nasty paraben preserved ones. I promise!


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