The truth about parabens

Parabens have been used since the late 50’s in various products. It’s a collective term for a group of chemicals that all have benzoic acid as a backbone structure. These chemicals are only used as a preservative in skincare products, pharmaceutical products, food products and cleaning agents. Today we hear more and more worrisome sounds about these chemicals. The big question: are parabens dangerous or not?

In which toiletries can you usually find synthetic parabens?

  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Cosmetics
  • Bodymilk
  • Deodorant

Research shows that over 90% of all groceries contain parabens as well. So if you try and avoid parabens in your toiletry products, you are still exposed to them through food.

Skincare products and preservatives

Why parabens can be found in almost every beauty and healthcare product? When products contain even the slightest amount of water, you need preservatives. Products free of parabens don’t even excist. Why? Bacteria grow on water. Since (almost) all products contain water, bacteria can easily grow. Simply put: bacteria need water in order to live and when there’s enough water available they will replicate like crazy.

Not all bacteria are harmful

Of course not all bacteria are bad for your health. There’s a distinction between so-called ‘gram-negative bacteria’ and ‘gram-positive bacteria’. All gram-negative bacteria are pathogenic organisms. Both kinds are present in food products and, when water is added, in beauty products.

Gram-negative bacteria are pathogenic

The intestines of humans and other animals contain a lot of gram-negative bacteria. The E. Coli bacteria for example. This bacteria belongs in a normal intestinal flora and is important to help process foods. Usually this bacteria is harmless, but in some circumstances it can cause infections. Most common is a urinary tract infection. When the E. Coli bacteria enters the bloodstream it can cause severe septicaemia (blood poisoning). Most gram-negative bacteria do not belong to the normal intestinal flora and can result in certain mouth, respiratory- and intestinal infections. Did you know Neiseeria Gonorrhoeae (STD) is also a gram-negative bacteria?

Parabens in fruit and vegetables

Many fruits and vegetables contain parabens naturally. Parabens ensure that harmful bacteria, as mentioned above, do not get a chance to grow. Since fruit and vegetables have to protect themselves from harmful external influences, they produce natural parabens. This way the plants and trees remain healthy. The form of parabens (there are many different variants) that you encounter in cucumber, cherries, cherries, berries, carrots, onions, cinnamon, mushrooms and dairy products is called benzoic acid. This natural form is often converted into its synthetic form so that it can be used in beauty products.

Benzoic acid – a natural parabene-like substance

Benzoic acid is a substance named after benzoie, a resin extracted from certain tree species. Benzoie contains many acids and used to be the main source of industrial applications. Benzoic acid occurs mainly in high concentrations in cranberries, but, as mentioned earlier, also in many other plants. In addition to cranberries, berries (black, blue and red berries) also contain high concentrations of benzoic acid. The strength of benzoic acid is its anti-microbial function. It therefore ensures that no harmful bacteria can dominate. For this reason, it’s also used in many food and beauty products.

What does bluem® use?

bluem® tries to keep its products as natural as possible. Nevertheless, we will also need preservatives to ensure that all our products remain bacterial-free. The addition of oxygen plays a particularly important role. Oxygen has many health-promoting properties, one of which is the killing of anaerobic bacteria or gram-negative bacteria. In addition to oxygen, we use several fungicidal and antibacterial ingredients, including methyl parabens. This is the synthetic version of benzoic acid. Our body easily converts this synthetic form into its natural form. We have, however, ensured that it contains a very low concentration of parabens, which is exactly sufficient to ensure its shelf life.

Did you know that…

….. the maximum daily exposure to parabens is set at 10 mg/kg body weight? An average adult man may receive approximately 840 mg per day. As far as our toothpaste is concerned, you are exposed to less than 3 mg of parabens every day, assuming that you clean your teeth twice a day. Of course you don’t swallow your toothpaste, but a small part will enter through your cheek mucous membrane. In addition, the chosen form of paraben – methyl paraben, labelled as “not hormone-disrupting” – is therefore positive!

And did you also know that…

…. in 2015 the NVWA (Dutch autorities when it comes to food and healthcare) carried out a large-scale study into parabens that are not’ rinsed’ or remain on the skin? The emphasis was placed on babylotions and creams. Propyl and butylparabens were poorly distributed: they may no longer be used in articles for babies under 3 years of age. These seem to possess endocrine disrupting properties. The parabens methyl (available in blue®m products, among others) and ethyl are permitted in all cosmetic products.

Do what feels good

Of course we can’t decide for you if you choose a “parabeen-free” life. Choosing unprocessed, fresh food that naturally does not contain synthetic parabens is something we also enjoy. Thinking about what you use on your skin and brushing your teeth with is certainly not unimportant. It is your body and you have to do what you feel comfortable with. Of course we want to help you by being as transparent as possible – no secrets, but simply an honest Dutch product.

This blog has been written by our orthomolecular nutritionist Laura Kluyver. Every month she writes a blog about the relationship between nutrition and oral health. Besides writing content, she also gives lectures to IT groups throughout the Netherlands called “Nutrition and Oral Health”.