Cosmetics and other personal care products routinely contain parabens—a class of chemicals commonly used as a preservative to prevent bacterial growth and increase a product's shelf life. However, parabens are estrogenic, meaning they mimic the function of the naturally-occurring hormone estrogen. Exposure to estrogens has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and as well as reproductive problems. New research suggests that parabens may be more potent than previously thought.
Look for “paraben-free.” Today, it’s possible to find a number of personal care products, including lotions, deodorants, shampoos, and other cosmetics, that don’t contain parabens. Look for products labelled “paraben-free.”
Read the label. Watch out for products containing methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and other ingredients ending in -paraben. These ingredients are all part of the same class of chemicals.
Try DIY. Even if a product is labeled paraben-free, you can’t always be sure because of mislabeling issues. But you can be sure if you try some DIY alternatives at home. For example, to soothe dry skin, try using organic unrefined oils such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, or shea butter as a moisturizer.
Keep it simple. The best way to avoid chemicals is to reduce the number of personal care products you use. Each product is an additional source of chemicals, so by using fewer products, you reduce the amount of unknown and untested chemicals entering your body. Re-evaluate your daily routine—count how many hair and skin products you use each day and ask yourself which ones you can do without.
Take action! Join efforts to help eliminate toxic chemicals from our everyday environment and demand safer personal care products from industry and lawmakers. Check out The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and other organizations like Women’s Voices for the Earth.
Learn more about keeping your home healthy by visiting www.silentspring.org/tooclosetohome.