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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Ask Dr. Desai - Tips for Buying Green Personal Care Products

Jan 07, 2014 02:49PM
What are parabens?   Parabens is short for esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (p stands for para). The most commonly found parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben or butylparaben.

Why are parabens used in personal care products? In practice, parabens are generally used in combination with other preservatives, and usually with more than one paraben in a product to provide broad spectrum anti-microbial preservative action. Use of more than one paraben in a product results in a synergistic action, often allowing the manufacturer to use lower levels of the paraben mixture than any one paraben individually.

What kinds of products include parabens? Parabens are found in many personal care products, food and pharmaceuticals, including shampoos, makeup, creams and lotions, moisturizers, etc.

What health risks are associated with parabens? The primary cause for concern stems from the fact that parabens have been shown to exhibit mildly estrogenic properties, and estrogenic activity has been associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Compounds that mimic hormones are called endocrine disruptors. Studies have shown that substances of this kind which cause hormonal imbalance can have an adverse impact on fertility in both women and men. They can also lead to certain types of cancer if used over a long period of time.  According to a study published the Journal of Applied Toxicology, reported parabens being detected in breast tumors. The study discussed this information in the context of the weak estrogen-like properties of parabens and the influence of estrogen on breast cancer. In Denmark, this growing concern caused the government to introduce a ban in March 2011 against the use of propyl- and butylparabens in cosmetic products aimed at children under three years old. The Danish ban triggered a new assessment by the EU’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). The committee, which had previously taken the view that parabens did not pose a health risk, ultimately recommended a ban on parabens in products aimed at children under six months old. In the US, The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, an industry supported  group (which also includes the FDA as a non-voting member) reviewed the safety of methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben in 1984 and concluded they were safe for use in cosmetic products at levels up to 25%.  According to the FDA’s website, the “FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. However, the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area. If FDA determines that a health hazard exists, the agency will advise the industry and the public, and will consider its legal options under the authority of the FD&C Act in protecting the health and welfare of consumers.”

Given the reaction from consumers, many national personal care brands are voluntarily altering their formulas to be “paraben free.” This voluntary action on part of the manufacturers speaks volumes. So try and choose formulas that are paraben-free, however, buyer beware, paraben-free doesn’t always mean safe since products may contain other ingredients that you need to avoid as well. So stay tuned for the next monthly installation of this series to learn about what else you need to be on the lookout for and avoid.

Dr. Vinay Desai is a naturalist and a pharmaceutical scientist with a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and an MBA. He holds 15+ patents & 15+ publications in a wide variety of scientific disciplines and has invented novel targeted therapeutic agents. Dr. Desai is the co-founder and CEO of Dr. Desai Soap which is a manufacturer of premium all natural goat’s milk ayurvedic herbal skin care solutions. Dr. Desai Soap is a Green America Approved business. Dr. Desai is a naturalist who lives on a family owned solar powered farm in Tewksbury NJ featured in the New Jersey Country Side Magazine. Through community awareness programs, Dr. Desai has helped educate people in the sustainable practices of using solar power and green personal care products.

Let Dr Desai answer your questions about natural personal care products.  Please send your questions to [email protected] or call 908-236-6742. For more information, visit

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