You’ve heard the word “parabens” before, but are you familiar with what parabens are and how they are used in day-to-day life? More importantly, do you know whether or not parabens are safe for you and your newborn baby?

As a parent, you’ve carefully read review after review of baby food brands before making the best choice. You’ve vigilantly looked over product and ingredient labels before deciding which skin care products you will use on your little one.

But have you paid attention to whether or not parabens are present in your baby’s products? And before your little one even comes, do you know the significance of using (or not using) parabens during your pregnancy?

Parabens are widely used as a preservative because they are affordable, effective, and are rapidly excreted from the body. At the same time, however, studies have shown that parabens are estrogenic, meaning they mimic the effects of estrogen in your body.

As a result, parabens may contribute to fertility problems and an increased risk of breast cancer, because they are believed to disrupt your body's immune system. Parabens have also been known to disrupt baby growth during fetal gestation and the first years of life.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let’s take a step back. The experts at Mustela are here to break down everything you need to know about parabens and their safety when it comes to you and your baby.

What Are Parabens?

Baby care products

Parabens are chemicals that occur naturally in some foods. For example, the crowd-favorite (and completely safe!) fruit blueberries contain a type of paraben.

These chemicals are also used as a preservative in many products, including toiletries, cosmetics, moisturizers, shampoos, and more — even products that are marketed for newborns and babies.

Other places where parabens are often present include toothpaste, shower gels, vaginal lubricants, perfumes, indoor dust, sunscreen, lipsticks, eyeliner, bar soap, liquid soap, nail polish, and more.

Parabens In Baby Products

Parabens are often used in baby products because they are inexpensive and highly effective preservatives.

Preservatives are important because they stop mold and bacteria growth that could spoil a product — such as a bottle of baby skin lotion — or potentially harm your baby. Likewise, without preservatives like parabens, baby skin care products would have a short shelf life and would probably have to be kept in the fridge.

Parabens are also less likely to cause an allergic reaction in newborns than most other commercial preservatives. Overall, parabens seem like a decent — maybe even beneficial — chemical. Nonetheless, many brands are choosing to remove parabens from their baby products, and there are alternatives available on the market.

For example, Mustela’s Hydra Bebe Body Lotion is formulated with plant-based ingredients, including jojoba oil, sunflower oil, vitamins E and F, sweet almond oil, and shea butter to hydrate your little one’s skin and leave it moisturized — all without parabens.

But before we get into that, let’s backtrack a little. Why are parabens, these seemingly successful preservatives, a cause for concern?

The Concern About Parabens

Pregnant woman speaking to doctor about parabens

In your body, parabens act like the female hormone estrogen. There are some concerns that this may affect your health. For example, high levels of estrogen can increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

Of the many studies that have looked at parabens, one or more show reproductive effects that can interfere with fetus development. When it comes to you and your little one, this correlation is probably not something you’ll want to overlook. That’s especially true because a baby’s delicate skin more easily absorbs these toxins than an adult’s skin.

With that in mind, below are factors to consider when it comes to paraben product use.

Parabens Before Pregnancy

Woman applying cream with parabens in it

Parabens can impact all stages of conception. Both human and animal studies suggest that these chemicals may interfere with a woman’s ability to become pregnant. Women who consume higher amounts of parabens have lower antral follicle counts, which are a measure of egg supply and indicate fertility.

Another study found that women with higher paraben levels in their urine were likely to have fewer children than women with lower levels.

Parabens During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman

For pregnant women, in particular, parabens are a cause for concern when it comes to makeup and skin lotions. When you use a product containing parabens, the long exposure time on your skin increases the potential for the chemicals to get under your skin and reach your unborn baby.

And, again, if certain parabens do reach your baby, there is a chance of developmental issues before your little one is even born.

One study found that pregnant mothers with the highest paraben levels had a greater chance of having a preterm birth and that babies conceived to these mothers had decreased gestational age at birth, lower birth weight, and decreased body length.

Other research has found that the male children of women exposed to parabens are more likely to develop an ill-functioning reproductive system. The baby boys in this study were found to have higher estrogen levels.

In animal studies, maternal exposure to parabens also damaged testicular structure and function in the male offspring, causing abnormalities in their sperm when they become adults.

Still, it’s important to note that there isn’t much scientific information on whether the use of products with parabens increases the amount of parabens that accumulate in your body over time. It’s also unclear if there are more issues associated with the use of paraben products during pregnancy.

Parabens And Your Newborn Baby

Baby lying down

In addition to reproductive problems, parabens may also cause other issues for your baby.

In a study conducted by Fairhaven Health, when baby animals were exposed to higher levels of parabens, they were found to have increased problems with social interactions, learning, and memory.

In another study, parabens led to anxiety and reduced learning performance in baby animals. But each person’s body responds differently, so this information serves simply as some scientific food for thought.

The Unknown

baby products without parabens

When it comes to paraben dangers, experts are still trying to figure out exactly how parabens are absorbed into the body. More research is needed to determine what the exact effects of parabens are on moms and babies and how those effects can be reduced.

It’s not known yet whether parabens have more of an effect on our babies and children than they do on adults. However, it is known that young babies are more likely to absorb parabens through their skin than older children and adults are. This is true of any chemicals, not just parabens.

Should You Worry About Parabens?

mother and baby

With so many studies and stories around, it’s difficult not to worry about how parabens may affect you and your newborn’s health. To err on the safe side, it’s best to replace the products you and your baby use — such as baby bath washes and shampoos — to ones that are totally paraben-free.

The experts at Mustela strive to offer paraben-free, safe skincare products for babies, children, and new and expecting mothers. After all, complete safety is our guiding principle!

Protecting You And Your Baby From Parabens

Happy mom and baby

Consider this: would you be prepared to take a chance on parabens unless you were 100 percent certain that they were safe for you and your baby?

If you feel safer in protecting your family by switching to paraben-free products, you’re in luck! It’s increasingly easy to find paraben-free alternatives, especially for babies, just like Mustela’s Normal Skin Bathtime Set.

To make sure you’re giving your little one (and yourself) the best chance possible against the harm parabens can cause, always check the labels on any skin and beauty products you use. Some of the more common parabens to look out for are:

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben

Staying informed about the potential side effects of paraben use before conception, during pregnancy, and directly on your baby is essential to protecting your child from potentially harmful chemicals.

As always, keeping you and your little one happy and healthy is of the utmost importance in everything you do!