Parabens: What’s The Controversy About?
How many times have you come across the phrase “paraben free”? Maybe more than once since it’s a hot topic now in the fashion world, especially now that we’re more aware of the ingredients (artificial ones especially) in our skincare products and how they might affect the health and appearance of our skin.
When reading labels and ingredients, there was a time when we paid attention to only the things we want in our skincare products, like retinol or vitamin c, but now we’re becoming conscious of the things we want out. And parabens seem to be one of the outcasts.
But why? What’s the controversy about? You might even be asking, “what are parabens”?
In this article, we’ll demystify parabens. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know more about parabens, why they are labeled the black sheep, and if you should steer clear of them.
What Are Parabens?
To understand the debate, you need to understand what parabens are.
They are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in beauty, cosmetic, and skincare products. Parabens have been in use since the 1920s, so they are not exactly new to the skincare industry, people are just now paying attention to them because some associated health risks are becoming common knowledge.
Some of the most featured parabens in cosmetic and beauty products are listed below:
Why Are They In Cosmetic Products?
Cosmetics products travel a long way before they reach the final users. They go through production and manufacturing, then to the point of sale, consumers buy them, and they’ll be on the bathroom shelf until it runs out. So, it makes sense that they have a long shelf life. This is where parabens come in.
To put simply; parabens, because they prevent the growth of molds and bacteria, are used to increase the shelf life of cosmetic and beauty products. This makes them last for months and years.
What Products Contain Parabens
Parabens are used in a wide range of industries and products. They can feature in products with a high water content like shampoos, moisturizers, face, and skin cleansers, sunscreens, deodorants, toothpaste, shaving gels, makeup products, etc.
They are used in products with high water content because water is a great breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and the likes, hence the need for something that will prevent their growth and extend the shelf life of these products.
The concern is more serious in skin care because the highest and most consistent exposure to paraben comes from personal care products.
Paraben presents many different kinds of products.
Why Are They Labelled as Bad?
There have been recent studies and research that suggest that parabens are not just bad for the skin but also bad for our health. The research showed that parabens in cosmetic and beauty products get absorbed into the skin and become integrated with our tissues.
The main problem here is that parabens can get past our skin barrier, get into the body, and then stay there. Traces of parabens have been found in cancer tissue samples, causing concern as to its role in cancer and other health problems that go beyond the skin.
Parabens, Hormones, and Cancer
Parabens are endocrine disruptors. This means the body can perceive them as hormones, which could lead to hormonal imbalance. In case you’re wondering, hormonal imbalance is not something we want happening in the body.
Parabens have been found to interfere with hormone production and regulation by acting like estrogen. It has the potential to tamper with the normal functioning of the male and female reproductive system. This could potentially lead to complications in reproduction and cause developmental problems in children.
The parabens seeping into the skin could also potentially lead to cancer. They have also been connected to allergies and skin sensitivities. Propylparaben is thought to have the ability to alter the expression of genes in breast cancer cells and increase the growth of breast cancer cells. Some studies have also found that low doses of butylparaben can collaborate with other cell receptors to activate cancer genes and increase the growth of cancer cells.
All this information is gotten from a few studies, and no extensive study that involves humans have been carried out yet, so there is no concrete date or evidence that parabens can cause cancer or other developmental issues. But these concerns are enough to raise an eyebrow and start considering the inclusion of parabens in beauty, cosmetic, and skincare products.
Are Parabens Bad For The Environment?
It turns out our parabens are not only linked to concerns involving humans but also the environment. Some studies have found high levels of parabens in marine animals. Low levels of parabens have also been found in the oceans, rivers, streams, and water supplies.
There are clues here and there in the form of a few studies, but there is nothing concrete yet. But traces of parabens for sure have been found in marine animals, which could be an indicator, that it could eventually build up to significant levels in the future.
Are There Alternatives?
Due to this awareness of parabens, there are lots of products using the “paraben-free” tag on their products to make people feel comfortable about their products while they contain parabens. This is known as greenwashing. Make sure you read the ingredients of any product you want to use and understand the company behind it, don’t just trust the “paraben-free” label. Our La Verne products are free of parabens and other harsh chemical preservatives like phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin, and others.
What To Do
If you want to be proactive and take precautionary measures, you can skip parabens completely. You can do this by opting for organic and natural skincare products. The whole purpose of parabens is to preserve products and make them last longer on the shelf. Thankfully, there are natural and organic alternatives like salicylic acid, benzoic acid, and sorbic acid.