Reading over the label of a random bottle of shampoo, it may as well be written in Chinese. So many elements and substances are put into these products. Some are bad, some are better.

One of the standard ingredients in shampoos and conditioners (among many other products) is parabens. Parabens are chemicals which were first put into use in the 1950’s. They act as preservatives, and are added to many different everyday items in order to lengthen shelf life, and keep bacteria out of the way. They are used in hair products, skin products, and other beauty/pharmaceutical products. Parabens are some of the most common, most widely-used chemicals in the world.

The reason they are used in shampoos is because they are relatively inexpensive, and they get the job done. So far, so good. Why, then, are people trying to raise awareness of their existence? Why are people saying they are best avoided? Well, here is why.
Studies done on parabens have concluded that there is the possibility of them having negative effects, specifically when used long-term.

Just about anything which you rub into your body - your skin, your scalp - eventually ends up in the blood stream. Most of the products containing parabens are designed to penetrate the skin’s layers, and go to work under the surface. It is precisely here that certain issues are raised.

People react to substances differently. We see this with allergies and with medication all the time. Take peanuts for example: what would potentially kill one person, has no effect whatsoever on another. It is that diverse.

NOTE: the harmful effects of using shampoos with parabens hasn’t been proven in any definite way. In fact, there are those who are disputing the evidence which these studies are presenting. That’s science for you. Nevertheless, many people are choosing to avoid paraben-laden shampoos, due to the potential risk which they carry. More tests and trials are needed for definitive results.

So, what are these harmful effects which some scientists are claiming are attributed to paraben exposure?
A) Breast cancer. Because parabens have the ability to mimic the female hormone, estrogen, there is a fear that the two may be linked. Increased estrogen activity has been linked to different forms of cancer, in males and females, and parabens have actually been found inside cancerous tissue samples.

B) Low sperm count. In men, there is the possibility of the parabens disrupting the proper balance of hormones in the body. Testosterone - the male hormone - is greatly affected by the presence of too much estrogen, and it could potentially lead to a decline in sperm cells.

C) Hormonal imbalance. Aside from those two specific cases mentioned above, there is also the more general imbalance of hormones. The first two items on this list have been studied, and are still being studied, but hormonal imbalance has many other possible manifestation, which is why it deserves a bullet point of its own. Even if your breasts or testicals are unaffected, do not think you are in the clear. Hormonal imbalance takes many shapes and forms, and is best avoided for the body to function properly.

D) Premature aging. This is by far the most ironic of side-effects, since so many of the products containing parabens are actually meant to stop premature aging and encourage healthy skin-cell growth. Certain parabens increase the body’s sensitivity to the sun, which in turn could induce premature aging in skin which comes into contact with the sun’s rays.

Like I said, these are all still being studied and discussed. The great about today, is that there are many companies who produce paraben-free products. Even know there is conclusive evidence, many are taking the “better safe than sorry” approach, and are cutting off paraben-use altogether.

How to Avoid Buying Paraben-Laden Shampoo
Shampoos are used pretty much every day. If you are going to start using less paraben-laden products, your daily shampoo would probably be a logical place to start. First off, learn to recognize the names of the parabens. Some are relatively easy, since they contain the word ‘paraben’ in them: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and isobutylparaben are highly popular. Others, such as alkyl hydroxy (or parahydroxy) benzoates, are more difficult to spot, but not impossible.

The best way to avoid using parabens is to look for the words ‘paraben-free’ on the label. In my experience, this is an idiot-proof method of discerning which shampoos are safe. After all, I am not a chemist or pharmacist. Many products which are free of parabens have it written right there on the label, because companies know that people are looking for products such as those. It is a win-win.

Are parabens really dangerous and harmful? We don’t know yet. There have been many substances approved for use by the FDA, which only later turned out to be utter garbage. Only through long-term clinical studies will science be able to isolate and identify the effects (good and bad) of parabens on humans.

Looking to avoid the issue? Use parabens in moderation. They exist in so many everyday products, so avoiding them completely may not be a viable option. Don’t get me wrong, some actually do take that path - but it may not be for everyone.

At the very least, make sure to limit your use of items which contain parabens. Your daily-use products: soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc., should be as natural as can be, since those are used all the time, sometimes several times a day.

Who knows? Perhaps in the future we will find it was all for naught, and that parabens are not the cause of any illness or imbalance. For now, though, it is recommended to use them in moderation, or avoid them altogether. It is best to know what you are putting into your body, for a healthy and fruitful future.

Author's Bio: 

Caleb is a writer and researcher for Maple Holistics ( Maple Holistics provides industry leading all-natural hair, body, skin, and food products. The company offers a natural, holistic range of premium products which can enhance hygiene, health and daily living. Company products are made in the USA. Maple Holistics also offers features and reviews of personal care industry products.