July 28, 2016 3 min read

Take a look at the ingredient list on the bottle of your favorite shampoo. Among the ingredients, Parabens is one that is likely found. This name may stand out more than the other ingredients found on that list, as recent controversy surrounding the chemical has caused many manufactures to redesign their shampoos and beauty care products and consumers to discontinue use all together. Is it possible that parabens, an FDA- approved chemical, is causing potential cancer concerns? Is it possible that parabens are causing low sperm count in men? These speculations are just a few of the many that are raising concern. While there isn’t a cut and dry answer to the question of parabens safety, there is enough evidence to conclude that there are potential risks associated with the use of the chemical.

Parabens are chemicals found inside of shampoo and beauty care products such as deodorants and makeup. The chemical is used as a preservative inside of these products to prevent product contamination and bacterial and fungal growth. Without parabens, or a solution of its kind, these products would be unusable and hazardous shortly after creation. The chemical is very inexpensive to purchase, thus explaining its popularity inside of many shampoos and beauty products currently available on the market. However, parabens mimic estrogen production, leaving scientists and others to wonder if it does play a role in the development or progression of breast cancer. Approximately 80% of all new cases of breast cancer find lumps almost directly underneath the armpit. Deodorant is one of the many paraben containing products on the market.

Controversy over parabens began in 2004 after a study concluded that a link between the chemical and breast cancer had been detected. Shortly thereafter, a number of shampoos began advertising their product as ‘parabens-free.’ Recently, a number of shampoos have hit the media with parabens-free labels, leaving many consumers wondering if parabens are of greater concern than originally anticipated. The answer isn’t as simple as what some would like, however, as parabens safety has great controversy surrounding it.

Parabens are composed of several different chemical compounds. Those compounds are methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparane. These chemicals, despite their difficult-to-pronounce names, have been used for almost 70 years now, but some scientists are now saying they’re actually causing harm to our health and well-being. In fact, in 2014 they were for banned use by the European Commission with recommendations from the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.

Numerous studies have been conducted concerning parabens and their safety. One study, conducted by University of Reading in England, says that parabens can be found inside of breast tissue samples, but didn’t prove cancerous. The study was not considered accurate, however, as levels were not tested in normal tissue cells. A Danish study recently conducted indicated that paraben were detected in urine and blood of the male volunteers after lotions containing parabens were applied to the skin, concluding that chemicals can be absorbed, metabolized and excreted, which could cause potential health concerns. The FDA maintains that parabens are safe when used at current levels inside of products. Studies conducted in 1984and in 2005 both indicate their safety. The U.S. Environmental Working Group, however, says that more research is needed to conclude the impact of product use over several years. Haircare manufactures, such as Jamieson Laboratories, a Canadian-based vitamin and supplement company, are even looking for replacements for parabens.

What does all of this mean to you, the consumer? It is probably safe to say that parabens are a bit risky, as any chemical would be. Switching to a paraben-free, organic haircare product isn’t a bad deal. After all, why expose yourself to a chemical if you don’t have to?