Do your skincare products contain parabens?
When you see a hair care or skincare products labeled as “paraben-free”, you may wonder what that means, and why it might be important.
What are parabens?
Parabens are chemicals that have been widely used as a preservative to prevent bacteria and mold growth in skincare, hair care or personal care products like soaps, lotions, scrubs, shampoo, conditioners cosmetics, deodorant and more since the 1950’s. Parabens preserve our skincare products for months or even year. These preservatives can enter your body through your skin.
We're told parabens are bad for our skin, health and our environment but why?
A 2004 study by Dr. Philippa Darbre published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, found traces of five parabens in the breast tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied. This study suggests that parabens may penetrate the skin and remain within tissue disrupting hormone function by mimicking estrogen. Too much estrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumors. This may suggest a link between paraben use and breast cancer as well as reproductive issues.
While the Food and Drug Administration made an official announcement that the study “did not show a cause-effect relationship between parabens and breast cancer”, doubts remain in the scientific community. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) through independent studies regarding parabens found that it’s possible for parabens to negatively impact the immune system, and may increase allergies and sensitivity. This may increase susceptibility to cancer. Since parabens are rapidly absorbed into the body, the CDC has done scientific research and reported a widespread existence of parabens in the human body. However, only some governments have moved to act against parabens. In Europe, the use of certain parabens is prohibited in fragrances because it causes loss of skin pigmentation.
As for the environment, a scientific study reported that parabens have been in the bodies of marine mammals', reveals Tom, 'Researchers believe that it is likely these parabens come from products we use that are washed into the sewage system and released into the environment.'
How do you avoid parabens? The Answer: Paraben-free alternatives
Parabens are synthetic preservative with the sole purpose of ensuring safety and product quality. Parabens can’t be removed without an alternative to replace it. Many skincare and hair care products are exposed to water from showers or tubs and are at risk of growing bacteria and mold. Without alternative preservatives, these products would be unsafe to use.
Many individuals have worked hard to spread the word about the possible harmful effects of parabens. The most common parabens have “paraben” in their name—butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben—they can also be listed as Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates. If you’re looking to steer clear of products that contain parabens, opt for ones that use ingredients such as ethylhexylglycerin (which is plant-derived) or phenoxyethanol, another alternative to parabens, a naturally derived ether alcohol.