You’ve probably seen plenty of products in stores than claim to be paraben-free, but maybe haven’t actually looked into why that’s a good thing. In short: Parabens are a preservative that beauty and skincare companies have used for decades to help products last longer on shelves without getting moldy or filled with bacteria. Unfortunately, those parabens stay on our skin even after washing our makeup off, seep into our bodies, and mess with our hormones. Yikes.
Obviously, hormones are a big part of our overall health, but especially fertility and pregnancy. Many women are told to avoid products with parabens while they’re expecting, but the research is still ongoing as to what exactly can happen if don’t follow this advice. A study published this month in the Nature Communications journal claims to have found one particular issue for babies — and it can last for years after they’re born.
According to scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), moms who use products with parabens while pregnant are more likely to have children who struggle with their weight. It’s also more likely to happen with daughters. Ladies really can’t catch a break, can we?
So why does this happen? Parabens do not cause the size or production of fat cells to increase, rather the preservative triggers something in the brain that interferes with the natural ability to feel satiated. In other words, children can lose the capability to know when they’re full, which leads to overeating. The researchers explain that this can last for up to eight years before their young brains are able to readjust and regulate their eating habits.
Think about it: Before babies are aware of any social cues around weight or how much they eat, they only cry for food when they’re truly hungry and simply turn their heads away when they’re full. Without that innate ability, they may be more prone to health problems like diabetes and childhood obesity.
If you or someone you know is pregnant (or hoping to be), they should definitely take the advice on avoiding parabens seriously. We can only imagine research will uncover more potential issues caused by this preservative, and with so many products going without them these days, it’s better for mama, baby, and really pretty much everyone else to avoid using them altogether.