How strong is the link between parabens and breast cancer…one of the most hotly debated issues.

Could the personal care/beauty products we use to enhance our beauty be slowly killing us?

Today we are becoming increasingly aware that what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream, so more and more people are searching for products that not only get results but are pure, safe and also beneficial for our skin.  Parabens are one of the most talked about ingredients in skincare products, and with this month being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s hone in on this hotly debated topic to understand;

  • What are parabens?
  • Why are parabens bad for you?
  • Is there a link between parabens and breast cancer?
  • Is there anything we can to do minimise the risk?

The first thing to understand is that anything we topically apply to our skin takes 26 seconds to enter our bloodstream. Our skin is our largest organ and everything we eat gets filtered by our kidneys and liver, but things that go onto your skin go straight into your bloodstream. If you want to test this theory out – try placing a piece of garlic between your toes and within a few minutes, you will taste the garlic in your mouth! And we also know this because medicated patches (nicotine etc.)  are being used all the time.

60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream and internal organs.

The average person has over 200 synthetic chemicals stored in their bodies at all times. (Source: The Chemical Burden and 8 Weeks to a Woman’s Wellness)

Men use between 3-17 products per day and women can use up to 37 products per day by the time they’ve washed their hair, used body wash, moisturizer, deodorant and the numerous skincare and cosmetic products we all have in our arsenal.  Take the challenge! Complete this checklist to see how many personal care products you use each day!

What products do you use

The USA, Australia & New Zealand, are governed by the Food & Drug Administration which bans just 11 chemicals from being included in skincare products.  That leaves a lot of scope to use sub-par ingredients without the user realising. One of these is parabens.

What are parabens?

Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products. Parabens stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.  Even their names are a bit scary – methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. They can also be listed as Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates.

You’ll find them listed on thousands of personal care products, anything from shampoos, moisturisers, foundations, mascaras, lipsticks, spray tanning lotions – you name it!


What are the concerns in regards to parabens?

There have been numerous studies on the effects of parabens with conflicting views.

“Studies have shown that some parabens can mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body’s cells, and while estrogenic activity is associated with certain forms of breast cancer, parabens have been found present in breast tumours.

What worries public health advocates is that while individual products may contain limited amounts of parabens within safe limits set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), cumulative exposure to the chemicals from several different products could be overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems. Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity,” reports the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC).

“Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells. Research has shown that the perceived influx of estrogen beyond normal levels can in some cases trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumours.”  Scientific AmericanShould People be Concerned about Parabens in Beauty Products?

Toxins 1Toxins 1 copy

Dr Philippa Darbre, a research scientist at the University of Reading in the UK, specialises in the impact of estrogen on breast cancer.  Dr Darbre completed two studies in 2004 and 2012 which showed high concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors.  The 2004 study detected parabens in 18 of the 20 samples of tissue from breast tumour biopsies.  The parabens identified in the study were primarily intact, meaning they’ve bypassed the liver, which can only mean one thing.  We’re not getting them from our food – they’re being absorbed through our skin. Dr Darbre’s study didn’t prove parabens cause cancer, but the fact that they are easily detected among cancerous cells is cause for concern. In her second study, Dr. Darbre found that parabens may be carcinogenic, meaning they can transform healthy cells into cancer cells.

“We’ve known for more than 25 years that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression; it is the reason tamoxifen [commonly prescribed to women with breast cancer] is used to disrupt estrogen receptors,” says Darbre. “So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic estrogen might be having an impact.”  

There has been a lot of controversy over these studies, but guess what?

New studies show that a whopping 99 percent of all breast cancer cells contain parabens—chemicals known, without a doubt, to be linked to cancer. Source: Daily Health Post 27/8/2017

Cancer is a very complicated disease and it’s devastating for those of us who have experienced it ourselves or with our family and friends. There are many variables and many unanswered questions that justify further research, but the findings of the research are cause for concern, perhaps supported by the fact that the US Food & Drug Authority continues to monitor research closely.

The bottom line is that the issue is still inconclusive and highly controversial.  Dr Darbre says that parabens are just one of many chemicals we’re all exposed to in our day-to-day environment.

“We’re going to see that the problem is long-term, low-dose exposure to a cocktail of chemicals,” she explains.

So for me, it’s really simple. If I can choose a product that gets amazing results, without the potential risk, then why wouldn’t I?  Not just for me, but for my family.  I’d rather start now than find out down the track that the research is conclusive!

What can we do to minimise the risk?

Start by learning how to read labels. Sometimes products marked as “paraben-free” can still contain other nasty chemicals.  Check out “The Dirty Dozen” list of ingredients to avoid in personal care products and cosmetics and avoid choosing products which contain these ingredients.

Dirty Dozen Graphic

I choose Arbonne products because, for me, it takes the guesswork out of what to choose or trying to read and interpret all those long names on the back of products.  Arbonne products are built on Swiss Heritage.

Having Swiss heritage, Arbonne follows the European Guidelines which bans over 1300 ingredients from being used in skincare and cosmetic lines, compared to the FDA which only bans 11! Arbonne have chosen to take that even further and ban 2,000 ingredients! Arbonne’s Ingredient Policy places their products higher than USDA Certified Organic!

The reality is, however, that when it comes to products, we don’t just want products that are pure and safe, we also want products that will get results.  Whether that’s anti-ageing or age-prevention, acne treatment, hair care, deodorant, sunscreen or great makeup – we want products that are going to work!  Arbonne combines the best of nature with the best safe science and new technology to deliver are not only pure and safe but produce remarkable results.


Obviously, I stand behind Arbonne products 100% – I wouldn’t feel able to recommend any others to get the best results, but the most important thing is awareness. I want to make sure that people know the full story, so they have the ability to make the right choices for them and their families. So if this is new to you, look at what products you are using, and find out more about parabens to make sure you are doing all you can to look after your health.

Have a look at these other resources for more information:

The Story of Cosmetics – a great 8-minute info video.

Breast Cancer and the Oestrogen Connection   – a 3-minute info video.

And as always, feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about how you can switch to a pure, safe and beneficial range of personal care and cosmetic products


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