Did you know that the personal care products you use could affect your reproductive health and fertility? Up to 85% of personal care products contain parabens. Parabens are chemicals like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben present in skin care, makeup, hair care, perfumes, deodorant and more. Parabens were created to prevent bacterial spoilage and extend product shelf life. Research increasingly shows that parabens have hormone-disrupting activity, this may affect fertility health or even impact cancer risk.
Parabens & Their Effects on Health and Fertility
Important Note: The research on parabens’ connection to fertility and cancer risk is ongoing and not conclusive, but here are some of the concerns:
- The Environmental Working Group finds parabens are xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens mimic the activity of reproductive hormones and interact with hormone receptors in the body. To date, xenoestrogens have been linked to potential fertility issues in men and women, birth defects, and possible reproductive cancers.
- The European Commission on Endocrine Disrupters lists parabens as Category 1 substances, known to disrupt endocrine system functions.
- Parabens and phthalates (substances used to make plastics more flexible) in our oceans and waterways have been linked to possible fertility issues in marine animals.
- A recent Harvard School of Public Health study finds propylparaben may be linked to diminished ovarian reserve in women and decreased sperm count in rats.
- Preliminary research from the United Kingdom shows a high content of six different parabens in cancerous breast tumors.
- Further, some people may be allergic to parabens in skin care, and experience eczema or a rash from their use.
Parabens & Your Body
We have much more to learn about the health and fertility risks of parabens. Yet, why take such a risk with products you use every day?
We know that parabens are fat soluble xenoestrogens, which are absorbed through the skin, GI tract, and the bloodstream, and are then excreted through normal elimination. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control found 4 different types of parabens in human urine samples.
It’s estimated that women are exposed to at least 50mg of parabens daily from cosmetics alone! Men may be exposed to fewer parabens daily, but may be less likely to look for products that are paraben-free, a possible concern for male fertility.
If you would like to know how safe your products are, check out the Environmental Working Group’s website Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
Do Men and Women Have Other Choices?
1. Purchase natural body care products – Many high-quality, natural skin care and makeup brands have now gone paraben-free. You can find them in the personal care department at your local natural food store. Often, a natural product will say if it is paraben-free right on the front of the label. If not, review the ingredient list. If you see ingredients like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, you will know that the product is not paraben-free.
In addition, be watchful of parabens in perfumes. Parabens are only listed as “fragrance” in the ingredient list on commercial perfumes. If you use perfume, choose brands that say “no synthetic fragrance” or that say “phthalate-free.”
I prefer applying diluted essential oils as my natural perfume with no added synthetic chemicals. Lavender, rose, and sandalwood are all fantastic scents that also offer aromatherapy benefits.
2. Make your own natural body care – If you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own paraben-free, natural skin care products!
Today, you can find information and recipes online for herbal-infused salves, lotions, shampoos, and deodorants that you can make at home.
There are also many books with recipes and information on natural skin care. Just two excellent choices are:
- The Herbal Body Book or Kitchen Cosmetics by Jeanne Rose
- The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green
When making your own skin care products, since you aren’t using parabens, you need to use a bit of natural preservative. (If you use an oil base, it can become rancid over time, or the herbs you use may lose potency.) A few drops of grapefruit seed extract or vitamin E oil helps prevent spoilage without the risks of parabens.
Go Green With Body Care Products!
When working on a fertility concern, pay attention to all areas of your life. Try to avoid synthetic chemicals like parabens as much as possible. While we don’t know their full impact on fertility, they could be adding to your body’s toxic burden or disrupting your hormonal health.
Look for non-toxic, natural personal care for yourself and your partner. If you’re like me, you will find you like natural products better and that the increased quality or expense is well worth the effort spent finding them.
Making your own natural skin care is another great choice that puts you in charge of the ingredients you put on your body, and is a very cost-effective option to support your fertility.
- Smith KW, Souter I, Dimitriadis I, Ehrlich S, Williams PL, Calafat AM, Hauser R. (2013). Urinary paraben concentrations and ovarian aging among women from a fertility center. Environmental Health Perspectives 121:1299–1305. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3855500/
- Renata S. Tavares, Fátima C. Martins, Paulo J. Oliveira, João Ramalho-Santos, Francisco P. Peixoto. (2009). Parabens in male infertility: Is there a mitochondrial connection? Reproductive Toxicology, 27: 1-7. Retrieved from: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623808002682
- Parabens and Their Byproducts Found in Dolphins and other Marine Mammals. (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2015/acs-presspac-october-14-2015/parabens-and-their-byproducts-found-in-dolphins-and-other-marine-mammals.html
- Darbre, P. D., Aljarrah, A., Miller, W. R., Coldham, N. G., Sauer, M. J., and Pope, G. S. (2004). Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 24: 5-13. Retrieved from: http://www.dr-baumann.ca/science/Concentrations%20of%20Parabens%20in%20Human%20Breast.pdf
- Men’s Health: Six Surprising Things That Can Affect Male Fertility. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/research/mens-health/fertility
- Oishi S., (2002). Effects of propyl paraben on the male reproductive system. Food and Chemical Toxicology; 40:1807-13. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691502002041?via%3Dihub
- Crinnion, W.J., (2010). Toxic Effects of the Easily Avoidable Phthalates and Parabens. Alternative Medicine Review, 15:190-6. Retrieved from: http://archive.foundationalmedicinereview.com/publications/15/3/190.pdf
- Adams, J. (2014). Are Parabens and Phthalates Harmful in Makeup and Lotion? Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/are-parabens-and-phthalates-harmful-in-makeup-and-lotions/2014/08/29/aa7f9d34-2c6f-11e4-994d-202962a9150c_story.html