Everyone and their mother hate parabens. But, why?
Parabens have been used for years in everything from shampoos, deodorants, sunscreen, pharmaceuticals, perfumes, mascara to beer, and red wine. So, what changed?
The belief that parabens damage your overall body health, not just your skin health.
As a consumer I want to stay as healthy and as ‘natural’ as possible. That said, I refuse to buy into fear mongering … I will not blindly buy products from companies jumping the ‘natural’ or ‘paraben –free’ bandwagon to make their products seem safer through labelling.
Here are 7 things you must know about parabens, and why I believe the focus on parabens is misguided.
1. Parabens Are Not Bad Guys, They Are Preservatives
Parabens are added to personal care products that are prone to contamination by microbes like bacteria, mold and fungi. Parabens prevent the growth of microbes, and increase a products shelf life.
2. They Are Easy To Spot
Usually contains the suffix ‘paraben’. The most commonly used parabens in personal care products are methylparaben and propylparaben
3. Parabens Occur Naturally, and We Ingest Parabens
When I first saw companies pushing their paraben-free labels, I thought “Hey, better safe than sorry, why take a risk when there is a paraben-free option”. I quickly realised that parabens occur naturally in foods we take in, for example - Banana, Mango, Carrot, Strawberries, Blueberries, Tumeric, Almonds, Broccoli, Garlic, Coconut Oil, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Vanilla, Apple, Olive oil.
This really made me wonder how the tiny amount of parabens in my skincare stack up against the amount found in the food I ingest.
4. Regulatory Authorities Have Deemed Parabens Safe For Use
The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, FDA, Health Canada, Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), American Cancer Society all say - There are no clear health risks from the tiny levels of parabens found in skincare and cosmetics.
While the level of parabens in everyday products are often as low as 0.3 %, they are deemed as safe for use upto 25%
5. The Research Calling Parabens Unsafe Is Inconclusive
To give some perspective, the hormone estrogen has a proven link to breast cancer. Parabens (both synthetic and naturally occuring) are phtyoestogens – they mimic the activity of estrogen in the body, and hence why it is thought to have a link to breast cancer. In fact, an in-vivo research demonstrated that parabens are much weaker than the phytoestrogens found in the foods and medicines we consume.
One study that examined 20 samples of tissue from breast tumour biopsies detected parabens in 18 of them.
In case one, the study did not prove that parabens caused breast cancer. In fact, It did not examine the parabens levels in healthy cells and compare them to the paraben levels found in the breast cancer cells. It also could not explain why parabens were found in breast cancer cells.
Another study detected parabens in the blood and urine of healthy young male volunteers a few hours after paraben - containing lotions were applied to their skin. It concluded that since chemicals could be absorbed, metabolized and excreted, they “could potentially contribute to adverse health effects”.
In case two, the research was not specific to parabens. Most of what we apply to our skin is simply not absorbed because our skin acts as an extremely effective barrier. If this wasn’t the case, imagine how revolutionary it would be for the pharmaceutical industry to simply make medicated stickers to deliver drugs via skin, instead of injections and tablets.
6. Paraben-Free Does Not Automatically Make A Product Safer
Paraben-free is not to be confused with preservative-free. Unless the label explicitly states ‘preservative-free’, the product contains a preservative, just not a paraben. So the ‘paraben-free’ label alone does not make a product safer to use.
7. There Is No Legitimate Reason for Consumers To Avoid Personal Care Products That Contain Parabens.
Considering the stance of regulatory bodies, the lack of published research and the miniscule amounts used in personal-care products, there is no legitimate reason for consumers to avoid personal care products that contain parabens. Brands are offering paraben-free options more in response to consumer demand than conclusive evidence.
As with any skincare ingredient, steer clear of parabens if your skin reacts adversely to it. If you want to proactively limit your exposure to parabens in skincare, there are many options available from Asian skincare and beauty brands.
So, Do I Use Products Containing Parabens ?
Yes. In general, I prefer preservative-free products because my skin does not need it, only the product does. I can deal with a shorter shelf life if it’s a product I run out of quickly, (like moisturiser) and if the packaging has a lower risk of contamination (like a squeeze tube)
That said, my skincare and beauty collection is a mix of paraben-free, preservative-free and paraben-containing products. What is your stance on parabens in skincare and beauty ? Let us know in the comments below !
Until next time, your friendly neighbourhood skincare addict @redlipsgoldskinned