What are Parabens and Phthalates and Why You Should Avoid Them

First, let’s talk about Parabens. You’ve probably seen all-natural skincare products proudly advertise that their products contain “No Parabens”. Merriam Webster defines parabens as “either of two antifungal agents used as preservatives in foods and pharmaceuticals: a: methylparaben or b: propylparaben.” These agents are esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid, which is why they’re collectively called parabens. Wisegeek.com says “advocates of organic and natural foods and cosmetics have expressed concerns over the use of parabens in consumer products for years, but there is little evidence to warrant it. While it is true that methylparaben is readily absorbed through the skin as well as in the intestinal tract, it is converted back into para-hydroxybenzoic acid and quickly excreted through urine. In fact, the only negative side effects that have been documented are contact dermatitis and skin sensitivity, both occurring with rare frequency and only in reaction to very high concentrations of test material.”  If skin sensitivity isn’t enough to warrant avoiding parabens, what about breast cancer or male infertility? Breastcancerfund.org sites studies showing that “parabens are estrogen mimickers (agonists), with the potency of the response being related to the chemical structure. Parabens can bind to the cellular estrogen receptor. They also increase the expression of many genes that are usually regulated by the natural estrogen estradiol and cause human breast tumor cells (MCF-7 cells) to grow and proliferate in vitro.” The January 2009 issue of Reproductive Toxicology reports that there is a probable interaction between parabens and the health and activity of cells in the testes, meaning a possible decrease in sperm production in males.

Phthalates (pronounced THA-lates) are plasticizing chemicals that are probable human reproductive or developmental toxins and endocrine disruptors. Phthalates cause reproductive birth defects in laboratory animals, particularly males. Two phthalates often used in cosmetics (dibutyl and diethylhexyl) have been banned in the European Union. Unfortunately, phthalates are still found in some nail polishes and hair sprays, and are commonly hidden on ingredient labels under the term “fragrance.” During our research on fragrance oils we found that there can be up to 500 chemicals in any one fragrance oil, and since fragrances are considered proprietary information they are not required to be listed on the ingredients label.

Even though both parabens and pthalates are both considered safe by the FDA, we believe that there is enough concern about the harmful side effects of these chemicals to steer clear of products which use them, especially pregnant women, babies and pubescent young adults. Think about the cumulative effect of all the products you use which contains these chemicals. The FDA considers these ingredients safe in the levels they’re found in cosmetic and skincare products. But what about repetitive use on a daily basis? Deodorants, lotions, body washes, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, toners, perfumes, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, eye shadow, powder, foundation, hair styling products, etc. Many of us use these items daily, if not multiple times per day. It’s understandable why women had a higher occurance of parabens in their urine when you consider that most women use more of these types of products than men do.

So why are parabens so ubiquitous in cosmetics and food if they can potentially cause so much harm? Manufacturers began using parabens when they realized they could extend the shelf life of their products. They are an inexpensive way to extend the shelf life of mass manufactured products.  When a lotion or similar product becomes contaminated with bacteria, terrible health problems occur. In the 1950s, some people were struck blind after using spoiled lotions. As soon as the government discovered the dangers of skincare products gone bad, it became law to add preservatives to lotions, exfoliators, and other similar items. Shelf life grew from a few short weeks to over 2 years. Parabens just happened to be the cheapest, most readily available preservative around, so that’s what was used. The dangers of parabens were not yet known. Some major cosmetic and skincare companies are tapping into the all-natural market, as people are becoming more concerned with their health, and making changes to improve it. Most of those companies, however, will carry an all-natural line to appease the conscientious shopper, but will still formulate most of their products conventionally with parabens and phthaletes. Reformulating products to use all natural ingredients is expensive and timely, after all.

How do you know if your products contain parabens or phthalates?  The FDA does not regulate the cosmetics industry, and they are able to use whatever ingredients they like, except for a few ingredients that have been prohibited.  However, under the authority of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), FDA requires an ingredient declaration on the cosmetic products sold at the retail level to consumers. Consumers can tell whether some products contain phthalates or parabens by reading the ingredient declaration on the labels of such products. Parabens are commonly listed on product ingredient labels as methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben and butylparaben. The regulations do not require the listing of the individual fragrance ingredients; therefore, the consumer will not be able to determine from the ingredient declaration if phthalates are present in a fragrance.

Today there are many all-natural skincare lines available. The Mod Cabin is one of them. We make your skincare or beard care at the time of your order. The product you receive is a fresh, all-natural product, that will nourish your skin and hair from the outside, like fresh food nourishes your body from the inside. Avoiding mass produced cosmetic and skincare products is a good defense for avoiding harmful chemicals, but you should always read the ingredients label to be sure. The Mod Cabin always lists every ingredient used in the formulation of our products, even the specific essential oils used in each product. If skin sensitivity, cancer, and general health concern you, you will definitely want to look into using paraben-free and phthalate-free skincare products.

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