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Science links common cosmetic ingredient to obesity inheritance

obesity and cosmetics

Have you noticed the world is getting fatter? Obesity is an epidemic, and it's especially bad in the United States and Great Britain. However, obesity issues are spreading globally and people are simply guessing at why.

Now, there is scientific evidence that points to a common ingredient in cosmetics: parabens. Parabens, such as methylparaben and butylparaben, are in 90% of cosmetics found on grocery store shelves. That number is astounding, but the reason parabens are widely used is because they serve as a preservative, enhancing the shelf life of the product.

The Food and Drug Administration deemed parabens safe enough to use in low levels, but they weren't considering a very important group of people: pregnant women.

Obesity link is undeniable

In 2020, a new study [1] was published that specifically looks at the effects of parabens on growing babies in the womb. The researchers found a link between paraben exposure and the development of obesity in the child.

It's likely that parabens are one factor, albeit a large factor, in the susceptibility to obesity. The damage occurs epigenetically, which means the child's DNA isn't directly damaged, but the proteins around the DNA are.

obesity and parabens
Parabens alter the proteins that wrap around DNA.

Scientists have only recently begun to understand the importance of epigenetics, and new studies are pouring forth based on that knowledge. New laws will follow those new studies.

Outlawing obesity-inducing chemicals

With this "smoking gun" evidence, scientists will be able to help ban toxic chemicals from common products. The risk of exposure is not just limited to a single product either, people use shampoo, conditioner, lotion, face wash, and make up all in one morning. That cumulative effect of parabens from each product is overload for a growing baby. It's also bad for the adult!

It takes time to make change though.

Only now is New York state planning to outlaw a common cancer-causing laundry detergent ingredient (SLES). Hopefully, other states will follow suite, but these changes come with great opposition because it costs manufactures huge sums of money to change their products.

Companies like Sironix Renewables are making safe, plant-based alternatives for laundry detergents.

Where to buy safe cosmetics

Until laws are changed and chemicals are banned from our readily available supply of cosmetics, you can be diligent in your choices to prevent paraben exposure.

As stated previously, 90% of cosmetics at grocery stores contain parabens, so it's best to shop for cosmetics elsewhere. Sephora offers a "clean" line of products, but that mostly applies to skin care and not make up.

Online shopping hubs like Earth Hero, Thrive, and Done Good carry paraben-free cosmetics for all your needs. Some specific paraben-free brands include

  • Meow Meow Tweet (which is available at Target),

  • Teadora,

  • Juice Beauty,

  • Burt's Bees,

  • Ilia Beauty,

  • 100% Pure, and

  • Afterglow Cosmetics.

Teadora's products are made from rainforest ingredients in their natural state.

While you're at it

Parabens aren't the only chemicals that have slipped by, harming human health over time, and not being caught until ample evidence could be collected. There are toxic chemicals in common laundry detergents, foods, and cleaning agents.

Plastics and cookware coatings are also being brought into the spotlight for their contributions to cancer development and human health issues.

So, while you're purging your cosmetics laden with parabens, consider making some of these swaps as well:

  • Use cast-iron or stone cookware

  • Use SLS- and SLES-free laundry detergent (Meliora is a good alternative)

  • Avoid plastics with BPA

  • Avoid Round Up and chemical weed killers

Just because chemicals haven't been banned doesn't mean they are safe. It just means scientists haven't gathered enough evidence to make a case. Protect yourself and your loved ones by ditching parabens from your routine.


[1] Leppert, B. et al. (2020). Maternal paraben exposure triggers childhood overweight development. Nat Commun(11)561.



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I'm Kat, the author of the healthy, happy blog. Using my background in science, personal training, and writing, I post about how to be successful in four main areas of your life: finances, body, mind, and home.

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