Quickly becoming a standard disclaimer in many hair and even beauty products is the phrase “Sulfate free, mineral oil free and paraben free.” Now I know why sulfates and mineral oil are avoided ingredients but what’s the deal with parabens in hair products?
After a bit of research, I learned that not only have parabens in hair products proven to be controversial but in other beauty products as well. The original purpose of parabens as a cosmetic ingredient is to act as a preservative and it became widely used due to its low cost.
Parabens are loosely thought to be carcinogenic, having been found in samples of breast tumors but no direct link to parabens causing cancer has been made. Breast cancer is the primary concern due to the structure and properties of parabens mimicking estrogen; Estrogenic effects have been shown to be one of the contributors to the development of breast cancer. A 2004 study found parabens within breast tumor samples at similar concentrations to those found in cosmetics. Furthermore, estrogen imbalances are linked not only to cancer but also to lowering the age in which puberty occurs in young girls, which is another concern regarding parabens in hair products.
After doing a bit of my own research, I do think that the link between parabens and breast cancer is strong enough to raise concern. However, much more alarming than having parabens in hair products is their use in other cosmetics, namely deodorants. The most common site of malignant breast tumors is the axillary (underarm) region and I cannot help but wonder if the rising incidence of breast cancer is due to this ingredient in our deodorants – after all, that is the direct area to which the product is applied.
Honestly, there are so many common things found in our modern lifestyle that has been known to cause cancer and while I am not one that is about to grow all of my own fruits and vegetables and stop using the microwave, I do think it is important that we inform ourselves of potential health hazards. Knowing is half the battle and I’d rather make a conscious choice to continue to use products that contain parabens then later develop cancer and wonder what I could have done to prevent it. Personally, I think I am going to continue to avoid parabens in hair products AND add to that list paraben free deodorants; and although I am not a mother yet, I certainly would not want my daughters to begin puberty any earlier than what mother nature would cause so I think it may be best to avoid any external factors whenever possible. My two cents.
Harvey, P. W. and Everett, D. J. (2004), Signiﬁcance of the detection of esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) in human breast tumours. J. Appl. Toxicol., 24.
Darbre PD, Aljarrah A, Miller WR, Coldham NG, Sauer MJ, Pope GS (2004 Jan-Feb). “Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours”. J Appl Toxicol 24 (1): 5–13.