Parabens is a term used for a group of preservatives used in mainstream body products for the purpose of increasing shelf life and reducing the occurrence of fungus growth in the product. They are found quite liberally in the ingredients of creams, sunscreens, shampoos and deodorants. Parabens are man made chemicals that have been in use for over 100 years. They can be labeled as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and one or more can be used in a single product.

While the FDA has repeatedly stated that there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the topical use of parabens, scientists and other independent researchers continue to study and review studies on their safety with increasing skepticism. Currently, there is a growing concern in both the scientific and consumer communities. Parabens have been conclusively found in a high percentage within the human body, notably present in malignant breast tumors (Phillipa Darbre, 2008) and in the gastro intestinal tract (Soni, 2005). Darbre’s studies have found that parabens act as xenoestrogens, agents that mimic estrogen in the body, which again is a concern for cancer. In general, they are easily absorbed through the skin.

As an avid golfer and outdoorswoman, I have taken to carefully reading the labels on my sunscreens. Most sunscreens are laden in chemicals; parabens making up just a small percentage of these. Because golfers spend hours and hours out in the sun, they are big consumers of sunscreen and aught to be aware of their long-term effects. There are many paraben free options available in today’s market and one should consider trying them out. Even without having to go out of your way, look for newer products made my ALBA, BADGER, The Honest Company and even some Neutrogena product that are on the shelves of most mainstream drug stores and grocery stores. Read the labels. At the very least, look for paraben free and sulfate free products. If you are looking for an even more pure product, one that is absent of all chemicals beyond just the parabens that we have addressed in this article, there are quite a number of outstanding and innovative companies offering such product online, at local Health Food Stores, Whole Foods Markets and other such stores. For a comprehensive list of 20 such brands, refer to Liz Thompson’s annual Consumer Guide. Liz is an organic beauty product researcher and frequently shares great information on health products. To read her recent article on sunscreen, follow the below link.

Taking the time to choose a good sunscreen, one that is also good for you, is worth it! The ones that are good for you are typically much better for the planet too. Reef degradation is a serious concern worldwide and sunscreens are now being looked into for their role in reef safety but let’s save that discussion for another time!!