The Dangers of Parabens for Black Women

I’m willing to bet that if you walk into most Black women’s bathrooms you are going to find a small corner store’s worth of products ranging from hair to body to cosmetic. One of my favorite things about us is our ability to express ourselves by using the gorgeous canvas we refer to as our body. Our artistry and approach to how we represent ourselves to the world shows in data, too. Black women (compared to white women) purchase nine times more beauty products. 

This raises a big problem when we introduce parabens. 

Parabens are a synthetic group of chemicals that are used as preservatives. Their sole purpose is to prevent mold & bacteria in products and extend their shelf life as a result. The issue is parabens are absorbed through our skin (largest organ and all) and wreak havoc on our hormones. 

They have the ability to penetrate our skin and mimic estrogen. When this happens it causes too much cell division and encourages the growth of tumors. In one study done, five different types of parabens were found in breast tissue. 

The issue is exacerbated when we consider our consistent, life-long exposure to parabens. This exposure has been linked to early puberty in our youth and sperm levels in our men.

Parabens are found in products such as the following:

  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Moisturizing products
  • Cleansers (face & body)
  • Sunscreen
  • Shaving gel
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Makeup
  • Some foods 

And… lipstick. This is especially concerning how often we may lick our lips, the exposure to ingestion when we drink and eat. 

 The most common ways you’ll find parabens listed on ingredient labels are with these prefixes:

  • Methyl-
  • Etyhl-
  • Propyl-**
  • Isopropyl-
  • Butyl-**
  • Isobutyl-

Propyl and Butyl are seen as the strongest culprits when it comes to creating estrogen activity. 

With parabens showing up in so many different daily use products, you can see how easy it is for them to accumulate quickly and create high levels of toxicity in our bodies. In fact, most tests completed on adult urine detect parabens. 

So what do they do? Parabens cause hormone disruption, which basically means they interfere with how much estrogen is created. Chemicals responsible for disruption often cause our bodies to mimic estrogen and those chemicals then attach to cells that are already there. This then causes an overproduction of estrogen. 

Hormone disruption has been linked to things such as:

  • Breast cancer
  • Premature birth
  • Fertility and reproductive organ issues/harm

When it comes to Black women, not only do we use more products, but the ones we use are more harmful. An example of that is shown by a study the Silver Spring Institute conducted. They tested hair products that are made specifically for Black women. Of those products tested they found that 72% of them contained methyl-parabens, with the highest numbers being found in hair lotion. 

This research, and others that are being conducted (finally), pulls back the blanket on the connection to Black women experiencing earlier periods, higher fertility issues, uterine fibroids, premature birth and greater breast cancer rates. 

The kicker is products can be made without parabens. Matter of fact, the European Union banned their use back in 2012. 

Where does that leave us? Well, I see it like I see most issues Black women in America face. We have to be loud. Loud with where and with whom we spend our money - shop Sabreen Cosmetics. Loud with our vote. Loud with our willingness to educate our communities. 


Illustration by Lauren Tamaki

This blog post was sponsored by Clean Beauty for Black Girls. Sabreen Cosmetics is proud to announce our newest partnership with Clean Beauty for Black Girls

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