As you wash your hair or put on your makeup, the last thing you are likely worried about is whether your favourite shampoo or foundation is going to cause cancer.
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. (1)
The most common of these chemicals are methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and butylparaben, all of which are used as preservatives in such things as your hair-care products (shampoos, conditioners, gels etc.), makeup, moisturizers (both face and body), as well as most shaving creams and gels. (2)
And despite the fact that a few brands of antiperspirants and deodorants do not contain parabens, most also contain aluminum, which is further linked to breast cancer (3) as well as Alzheimer’s disease. (4)
While you may prefer the enticing aroma of your beauty products, the problem with parabens is that they have “estrogen-like” properties, and as countless studies show, excessive estrogen is irrefutably linked to the development of breast cancer. (5)
When your body is exposed to chemicals that mimic the properties of estrogen, you can experience a situation known as “estrogen dominance,” which can lead to such things as reduced muscle mass, extra fat storage (especially in the belly area), and in men, what is known as male gynecomastia (breast growth) to name only a few of the growing number of issues caused by too much estrogen in both men and women. (6,7)
In the many studies that now link parabens to breast cancer, what is noteworthy is that most of the chemicals are actually found in the breast tissue closest to the underarm (the axilla quadrant) of the breast, which is also where cancerous tumors are typically found. It is no coincidence this area is also where you typically apply deodorant and antiperspirants.
How Do You Protect Yourself?
There is no doubt that beauty products are a major part of our lives. There is no getting around this. They not only help us feel good about ourselves, but they serve an actual need beyond our vanity—that of basic hygiene.
So what are you supposed to do when these same products may also harm you and your family members?
Well, for starters, don’t look to regulatory boards such as the Food and Drug Association (FDA) to step in right now as the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) does not actually authorize the FDA to approve cosmetic ingredients (except some color additives in hair dyes). (8)
In fact, for the most part, cosmetic manufacturers can essentially use anything they want in their products, apart from some obvious ingredients that are prohibited by regulation. (9)
And even though the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has openly stated that parabens are harmful to not only our personal health, but also the environment, regulations to date still do not prevent companies from adding these toxic chemicals to our beauty products.
The EPA states, “Studies show that some sunscreens and parabens demonstrate estrogenicity and multiple hormonal activities in vitro. Because of the high consumption volume and high lipophilicity of sunscreens, these compounds [parabens] have the potential to enter and persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in tissues of living organisms.” (10)
So, until governmental bodies make significant changes to what they will allow companies to add to our cosmetics and beauty products, the responsibility to find safe products lies with you. With that in mind, here are a few things you can do.
1. Know Your Chemicals and Read Labels
Familiarize yourself with the chemical names of things that should be avoided such as the different types of parabens listed here:
If you see any of these listed in the product, put it down and look for another.
Because parabens are now known to be so harmful, many companies will purposely advertise their product as “paraben-free,” which can make finding a safe product easier.
It is good, however, to remember that parabens are not the only ingredients that are linked to estrogen dominance and cancer.
And to make things even more confusing, a new class of cancer-causing agents has been identified.
Recent studies show that common metals that are often added to beauty products and even our food are now shown to also mimic estrogen.
These metals are called “metalloestrogens” and have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. (11)
Here is a list of some of these metaloestrogens to look out for (12):
What is truly scary about these estrogen-mimicking metals is that they have been found to cause significantly detrimental symptoms in even minimal amounts—far less than levels currently seen in most consumer products.
“Aluminium salts used as antiperspirants have been incriminated as contributing to breast cancer incidence in Western societies. To date, very little or no epidemiological or experimental data confirm or infirm this hypothesis. We report here that in MCF-10A human mammary epithelial cells, a well-established normal human mammary epithelial cell model, long-term exposure to aluminium chloride (AlCl(3) ) concentrations of 10-300 µm, i.e. up to 100 000-fold lower than those found in antiperspirants, and in the range of those recently measured in the human breast, results in loss of contact inhibition and anchorage-independent growth.”(13)
Scientific jargon aside, what this statement from a 2006 report published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology means is that if any one of these metals is considered carcinogenic at a concentration that is essentially 100,000 times lower than those being currently used in our personal care products, imagine what we are subjecting ourselves to with much higher levels.
2. Make Your Own Beauty Products
You are not alone if the thought of making your own beauty products is overwhelming, but once you start it really is a lot easier than you might think—and it is often much cheaper.
It will also give you a real sense of satisfaction to know you are using clean, safe and all natural ingredients on yourself and your family.
There are literally hundreds of different recipes for various homemade products to be found online.
Your grandmother probably even has one tucked away somewhere in her recipes. But, because deodorant is one of the worst offenders, here is a simple recipe to get you started:
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons shea butter
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot or organic cornstarch
- Essential oils or your choosing (speak to an aromatherapist or research the various oils as they can have some powerful effects—both good and bad depending on your situation)
- Mason jar with lid
- Combine the shea butter and coconut oil in your mason jar. Microwave the mixture (without the metal lid, of course) until it is just starting to melt.
- Add the baking soda and arrowroot and mix well with a spoon or by shaking it with the lid on tightly. Add the essential oil(s) of your choosing and then store it in your fridge.
- When you wish to use your new deodorant, place a small amount in the palm of your hand and rub it until it melts and then rub under your arm.
3. Buy All Natural Products
This option can become quite expensive, especially if you are on a budget or you have a large family, but the alternative can be even more costly in the long run.
One tip is to look for items on sale and stock up on the products you know you will use.
When it comes to this issue it is often best to simply pick and choose your battles as the saying goes. Buy all natural for the products you use most and those that are the least harmful and gradually change over to more natural products as your budget allows or look at making your own.