Parabens are a group of chemicals act as preservatives to prevent bacterial growth. They are relatively inexpensive ingredients and are effective in preventing the growth of fungi and bacteria thus dramatically extend the shelf life and efficacy of many cosmetic and beauty products. This is why they are often found in products that people use every day.
Without these preservatives, products will be spoilt before they are used up, and this means wastage and higher costs for replacing of products.
What Are The Products That Commonly Contain Parabens?
It is quite disturbing to know that over three-quarters of beauty and health care products contain parabens in their ingredient lists. Unless it is specifically stated or labeled as “Paraben-free,” almost any typical cosmetic/beauty or health care may contain parabens. They have been found in sunscreen, hand soap, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, face lotion, facial cleansers, foundation, lipstick, mascara, hair spray/mousse/gel, and toothpaste. They can also be used as food additives.
As a matter of fact, parabens are naturally produced by vegetables and fruits. Food such as soy, beans, cherries, blueberries, carrots, and cucumbers produce parabens to a much greater degree than the minuscule amounts of parabens used in skin care and cosmetics.
How to Spot Parabens?
Every company that uses parabens in their products must print on the ingredient list which can be found in jars, boxes, bottles and another packaging. Look at the product labels for ingredients with “paraben” as a suffix. Common parabens include methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216), butylparaben and heptylparaben (E209). Less common parabens include isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben.
Alternative to Parabens
Products contain ingredients, such as organic acids, are becoming popular for the preservation of cosmetics. The combination of diazolidinyl urea, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate may be used as a paraben alternative. This combination has been found to have promise against bacterial growth (Cosmetics and Toiletries, 2005)
Of course, alternatively, you can go for more organic and natural products. One all-round product that can be used as a skin moisturizer, hair conditioner, and anti-aging cream is organic Argan Oil.
Essential oils can also be a choice for natural skincare and have been used on the skin for centuries for their regenerating and toning properties. They absorb easily into the skin, helping to improve the feel, texture, and look of the skin. I’m only talking on pure, therapeutic grade essential oils and many sold today may have adulterated with synthetic ingredients and may contain harmful chemicals. You can read HERE for the choice of essential oils. And learning to use essential oils in your natural skincare routine can be easy.
Are Parabens Really Bad?
Parabens are deemed as xenoestrogens – estrogen-mimicking ingredients and if they are stored in the body over time, may have a cumulative effect and pose a health risk. However, THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT that parabens have any link to any form of cancer and the amount of parabens used in any product today is typically quite small, making them consider this preservative is safe at low levels. While the evidence is still inconclusive, parabens have hormone-disrupting qualities and are linked to cancer. One study showed that 99% of breast cancer tissue sample contained this everyday chemical. As a result, experts are recommending limits on paraben levels in cosmetic products.
It’s hard to find a preservative that is more well-tolerated this is why parabens are widely used. Other alternatives to parabens such as organic acids, mentioned earlier on, interact only with the cell wall of microorganisms, which means they don’t kill the majority of bacteria but only fungi. This is to say they don’t guard enough against bacterial growth and keep products from spoiling before used up.
Despite the media frenzy surrounding parabens, most physicians and scientists, studies and global community still consider parabens are safe for use in cosmetic and there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of the products containing parabens. The tiny levels of parabens used in the cosmetic/beauty products are probably not harmful, so there isn’t a need to fear them in your skincare products.
For personal choice and if you want to stay safe, perhaps it is good to stay away and go for products label as “Paraben-free.” When shopping for products, it is always good to check the ingredient list and knowing the chemical names helps to avoid these preservatives before purchasing.