Saturday, February 10, 2007

Is Your Shampoo Making You Fat while Ruining the Environment and Possibly giving you cancer?

I know I've written about the evilness of parabens before, but I can always appreciate a well-written article--and eliminating chemicals (puts the "poo" in shampoo) in your cosmetic products is such an easy way to protect your health, no reason not to look into this issue again.

This excellent piece of prose is from our friends at, and I think Jen shares my fixation with George Clooney (go Jen and Heather!):

As if bad hair days weren’t enough, we can now add weight gain, hormone disruption, and breast cancer to the list of possible side effects associated with parabens – a chemical preservative and common ingredient found in shampoo and other personal care products.

Say what? If you’ve ever read the back of your shampoo bottle, you’ve no doubt seen parabens listed among the ingredients. Butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben are found in everything from makeup remover to shaving cream. These chemicals act as preservatives, extending a product’s shelf life by inhibiting bacterial growth. They’re used in tens of thousands of products, and are found in many items-- even some processed foods--that claim to be “natural” or “hypoallergenic” (terms that aren’t governed by federal standards or definitions).

What causes parabens to be potentially harmful? Their chemical structure is strikingly similar to the hormone estrogen. When paraben-laced products are applied to your skin, they're absorbed into your body and may be mistaken for estrogen, disrupting the hormonal system. Too much estrogen can cause big problems, including weight gain, fluid retention and depression. Parabens have been linked to several hormone-related diseases, including breast cancer, abnormal fetal development in pregnant women, and abnormal development of male reproductive systems. In 2004, researchers in the
United Kingdom detected parabens in 18 of 20 breast cancer tumors they studied, suggesting a link between parabens and breast cancer. Estrogen also helps to regulate the activity of fat cells, meaning that yes, it’s possible your shampoo is making you fat.

Besides being risky to your health, parabens pose environmental risks. Washed off in the shower or at the beach, they can accumulate in waterways or soil and disrupt the hormones in animals. Scientists have documented hundreds of animals with genetic defects, such as frogs with extra legs, which they say could be the result of paraben pollution.

Fortunately, more and more products are wearing the “paraben-free” tagline on their sleeve (or bottle). The gurus over at leading eco-living email tip company, Ideal Bite, have been pushing the paraben issue for awhile now. We got co-founders Jen Boulden and Heather Stephenson to divulge their favorite paraben-free personal care options:

Hair: John Masters Organics Honey & Hibiscus Reconstructing Shampoo; Max Green Alchemy Scalp Rescue Condition and Styling Gel.

Nails: Peacekeeper Nail Paint.

Lips: Peacekeeper Lip Paint.

Eyes: Alima Pearluster Eyeshadow; Dr. Hauschka Kajal Eyeliners; Lavera Mascara.

Face (Wash): Jason Apricot Scrubble.

Face Cream: Aveda Tourmaline Charged Hydrating Crème.

Face Makeup: Burt’s Bees Vanishing Facial Powder.

Body Lotion: Blooming Lotus Massage Lotion Bliss Blend.

Shower: Collective Wellbeing Charcoal Body

Sunscreen: Lavera Sun Spray.

Deodorants: Alba Clear Enzyme Deodorant; The Crystal Stick Deodorant.

Shaving: Aubrey Organics Shaving Cream.


Anonymous said...

So I should not be adding these parabens to my cereal right?

At Whole Foods recently I noticed that while they dont sell (not that I could find) anything with the "bens" in them, they do sell a lot with the bad sulfates in them. Any thoughts Marie?

GreenFertility said...

Yes, WF sells a lot of stuff with sugar in it, too. Plus, some of the bacon has (I kid you not) nitrites. I actually use generic castile soap (and, plus some natural cosmetic cos send me samples of stuff, the good ones of which I review on the site and use...) for almost all my soap needs and use cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse.

Ergo, I can still buy a lot of my stuff at our co-op. I buy less and less from WF. I still think many companies are trying to "cash in" on organics and some organic shampoos with organic tea tree oil and then icky laureth sulfates still get on the shelf at places like WF. CAVEAT EMPTOR!

And actually, it's probably safer to use it on your cereal bec. it goes through your digestive tract and not directly into your bloodstream via your scalp, that is, unless you really want to grow breasts, or something ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm so hyper focusced on food that I often forget about the other things I eat, like the lipstick I'm wearing! A lot of the facial products I use are Ayurvedic, but I still use Suave Shampoo, fancy paraben-laden makeup and regular ole' nail polish. Okay, time for another change! Those parabens are freaky.


Anonymous said...

OMG, I just checked my Kiss My Face peach moisturizer, and guess what, paraben!

Anyway, here's a link to my favorite all natural cosmetic company - Bindi - it's Aruvedic. The woman who owns it is brilliant, and she totally fixed my post birthcontrol messed up skin.


GreenFertility said...

Neat! I'm going to check out this company. Thanks, Ali!

Carla said...

I try to buy less and less from Whole Foods for that very reason, but then again, I live in an area where we have more choices than in some other parts of the country.

For skin and hair care, I recently found some "safe" brands (without parabens, sulfates, silicones, artificial colors and fragrances, etc), some are American other (and most) are European in nature. Since I'm a product junkie I'm a avid label reader though I may slip and buy something "unsafe" every now and then.

Unfortunately castile soap dries the crap out of my skin and hair, but there are alternatives to that.

GreenFertility said...

try apple cider rinse and then jojoba oil after you get out of the shower on the ol' hair...

Anonymous said...

Wow! I knew that shampoos tend to use "the -bens," but I had no idea that there were so many other products that use them too. I looked through all of my cosmetic products to find that the majority of them contain some sort of paraben. It was a huge disappointment! I was especially upset to find that the Proactiv Solution I have been using contains two types of parabens. Thank you so much for your post. It was incredibly helpful!

Anonymous said...

Breast Cancer estrogen
Common Breast Cancer Myths

The first myth pertaining to this disease is that it only affects women.

Second myth that is associated with this disease is that if one has found a lump during an examination, it is cancer.

Third is that it is solely hereditary

The next myth associated with breast cancer is downright ridiculous. Would you believe, that in this day and age, some individuals still think that breast cancer is contagious?

Conversely, some individuals foolishly believe that breast size determines whether or not one gets cancer.

Finally, another myth that is associated with this disease is that it only affects older people. This is not so. Although the chance of getting breast cancer increases with age, women as young as 18 have been diagnosed with the disease.

You can find a number of helpful informative articles on Breast Cancer estrogen at

Breast Cancer estrogen

Anonymous said...

Can you suggest some safe winter skin products?Do they exist?

GreenFertility said...

I use plain oils--coconut, olive, but I liked this vanilla product:

thanks for writing

anaree said...

I know the problem with parabens, but I was wondering if anyone knows of any possible estrogen effects of soy in shampoos? I'm trying to stay away from the estrogen effects of soy, but many shampoos have some kind of soy in them. Are they absorbed into the skin?

GreenFertility said...

Yes--there are reports of children going thru premature sexual maturity with shampoos that have placenta extract in them...

Bell said...

You brought up an interesting topic. Parabens have been linked to a increasing cancers. I avoid them at all cost!