Parabens - What are they? Why are they bad?

By Sarah - Monday, March 17, 2014

Alright, today I wanna touch on the subject of parabens and whether they are bad for us and should we avoid using cosmetics and products containing it.

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We all have heard it before one way or another that we should. Why? Now, I am not a health expert and I'm not in that field. All the information which I have gathered and am sharing with you is from me doing research.

Firstly, what are parabens? I've been noticing a lot of beauty products, especially soaps promoting that they are paraben-free. A short story here: I was in Paris a few months ago and I stayed in this adorable boutique hotel near Gare Du Nord. When I checked in and all, the manager was telling me all about the room I will be staying in as well as emphasising (proudly, I may add) that their soaps are paraben-free. Now, that got me thinking. What are parabens and why is everyone boycotting it?

Parabens are basically preservatives used in various cosmetics and beauty products to help prevent the growth of microorganisms and thus, helping the product last longer without goin' all gross and yucky. These preservatives are present in almost everything I have in my toilet (yes, I checked) and my makeup. Most common types of parabens are: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Usually, more than one form of paraben can be found in one product! 

Some makeup with parabens in my collection

So, are parabens bad for us? Some scientists claim that parabens can breast cancer as well as reproductive issues as they are able to mimic the estrogen in the body. This then might result in what they call "estrogen disruption" which is linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. A researcher apparently also found parabens being present in malignant breast cancer tumours in 2004. This is why many deodorants and lotions which are applied near the boobs are now moving towards being paraben-free (look at my deodorant below!). Parabens can also cause skin irritation and those who are allergic to parabens may even contract dermatitis or rosacea! 

From my research, there is no direct causation or link between parabens and cancer! On 2005, a safety assesment of parabens concluded that cosmetics containing them do not pose a health risk due to the small amounts being used. Thus, the chances for the parabens to penetrate the skin tissues and accumulate within the body are low. Also, as parabens have been used for a long time now, the mainstream cosmetic industry believes it to be safe. Additionally, parabens will  be non-irritating, non-sensitizing and have no effect on normal people without paraben allergies (which only affects a very small the whole population).

There are many alternatives right now in the market but are they necessarily better? Despite "popular" belief, parabens are actually are not entirely synthetic. They are formed from p-hydroxy-benzoic acid which are found in blueberries and raspberries. Yes, ironically, parabens are actually naturally occuring chemicals. Additionally, some brands use more synthetic preservatives in order to avoid using parabens (which doesn't sound any healthier if you ask me!).

I feel way more enlightened after doing this research and finding out more for myself. The hype of "parabens being bad and all" doesn't seem to have much scientific evidence to it. "Paraben-free" may be just a marketing scheme, who knows?

Here are some brands which are paraben-free (for those of you who wanna stay assured): 

Hope this information helped those who were as lost as I was! Have a great beauty day ahead!XO.

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