Parabens, Chemo and Cold Capping

Published: 26 Sep 2018

Parabens are a preservative commonly used to control the growth of microbes in products such as shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, makeup, lotions and skin cleansing products. They’re the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics, at present appearing in over 85% of products. If you want to check if your product contains parabens look for ingredients ending in -paraben such as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben. 

There is much debate about the damage caused by parabens with some reports stating that they damage hair follicles and bulbs, weaken the hair, block pores, cause allergic reactions and increase the risk of cancer.

Several studies have shown that parabens can affect the mechanisms of normal breast cells and potentially influence their abnormal growth, leading to increased risk for breast cancer

Breast Cancer Care says “Some tests have found that parabens can be present in our bodies at high concentrations. This might increase breast cancer risk, particularly if exposure to parabens occurs during the three main periods of breast tissue development, which occur in the womb, around puberty, and during pregnancy.”

Chemo and parabans

Patients undergoing chemo treatment should be particularly aware of the potential implications of parabens on their hair.  During and after an infusion of chemo drugs, your liver is working overtime to clear out the toxins from your body – but the diluted drugs need to escape from somewhere, and this includes the skin pores on your scalp.

The toxins are pushed up and secreted through your hair bulbs in a liquid form.  You won’t notice because it evaporates as soon as it hits the surface, but it leaves behind a slight powder residue. If you use a shampoo and conditioner containing parabens, you will have some residual build-up on your hair. When the diluted chemo toxins are pushed up through the scalp they mix with the paraben particles and can produce a ‘chemical cocktail’ that can cause reactions such as a rashes or soreness as well as weakening your hair. 

Why you need to avoid parabens when cold capping

If you’re cold capping, you want to give yourself the best possible chance of success.  That includes avoiding products that could in someway contribute to hair loss!  

Cold cap therapy involves fitting a specially designed cap, filled with a very cold gel or liquid, snugly onto your head to cool the scalp.  It cools the hair capillaries, reducing the metabolic rate of the follicles so they go into a hibernated state, thereby preventing the hair bulbs absorbing the chemotherapeutic drugs. For more information about Cold Capping click here

After chemo, when your cold cap session is finished, your hair follicles start to come out of their hibernated state, and if you use hair products with parabens you risk reducing the effectiveness of cold capping as the potent chemical toxin attacks.

How to go paraben-free

Look for “paraben-free.” It’s possible to find a number of personal care products, including lotions, deodorants, shampoos, and other cosmetics, that don’t contain parabens

If you want to ask advice, or you have found a paraben-free PH Neutral product that works for you, please share with the members of the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group.