• Parabens under your skin



    These are not natural ingredients, parabens are just some chemical compounds who managed to provoke controversy in the cosmetics world and be dreaded by a certain amount of people. Parabens are still being the subject of a heated debate in the beauty industry at this time, both opponent sides bring strong arguments but the troublesome ingredient remains one of the most efficient and most used preservatives in cosmetic products, since the beginning of the 20th Century. 

    On the other hand, some people don’t even know what parabens really are and therefore completely ignore them. They are nothing but synthetic preservatives without which many beauty products (cleansers, lotions, shampoos, shaving gels, toothpaste, soaps, moisturizers etc) would probably not even last for more than a few days.


    What are Parabens?
    Parabens are a group of chemicals largely used as preservatives in cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food products. They are in fact derivates of the para-hydroxybenzoic acid and usually are used in mixtures of 2 or 3, to ensure proper protection against a wide range of microorganisms that may contaminate the product. 

    Some of the most common parabens are:
    Methylparaben (E218) – This is a non toxic preservative derived from benzoic acid which is approved for use as an additive in foods. It is effective against fungi and bacteria and a mold inhibitor. It is also widely used in cosmetics. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) included Methylparaben on the list of substances considered safe, non irritating and non toxic. It can still cause allergic reactions for some people.
    Ethylparaben (E214) – it is a synthetic anti microbial preservative found in cosmetics; it is efficient against bacteria; in some cases it can produce allergies and irritations to the people who use cosmetics containing Ethylparaben. Generally not recommended for consumption by children.
    Propylparaben (E216) – an antifungal preservative used in food and pharmaceuticals; it can occur as a natural substance found in plants but it is produced synthetically for use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and foods. Generally not recommended for consumption by children.
    Butylparaben – a substance used for artificial flavoring in food. It is one of the preservatives commonly found in cosmetics but it was also linked to some health issues like the decrease in testosterone levels. This is still being investigated.
    Isobutylparaben – a less common paraben but still found in some cosmetics (and generally makeup products); it is a derivate of isobutyl alcohol and p-hydroxybenzoic acid. It is usually found in facial moisturizers, sunscreen and anti aging lotions, lip-liners, mascara, foundation and face cleanser (including exfoliants)
    Less common paraben names on the labels include derivates like Benzylparaben and Isopropylparaben

    What is the controversy?
    Some studies in the past suggested parabens from cosmetic products are responsible for the development of some tumors and cancers. One of the most shocking studies suggested that parabens from antiperspirants and deodorants lead to breast cancer, by migrating to breast tissue, as one of the studies revealed the existence of parabens in breast tumors. It was suggested that parabens accumulate in tissue over time but complementary research has proven parabens from skin care products do not accumulate in body tissues. With all the “evidence”, this was not considered to be relevant enough so further studies are being carried out.
    Parabens used as preservatives in food are not being overlooked and carry the blame of causing diverse health issues including digestive cancers. As no official research has proven this yet, other concerns were raised, this time on infants’ development, as parabens occurring in breast milk in certain amounts could affect their health.
    The most common issue is probably the potential of allergic reactions that some parabens might trigger, because some people may be allergic to these preservatives, so extra caution is required when using cosmetics, especially from people with skin sensitivity.

    An expert opinion?
    The current scientific research shows that exposure to parabens through skin care products does not increase health risks. The dose used in cosmetics and food is not significant enough to cause health problems, accumulate in tissue over time and lead to severe illness. The CIR Expert Panel (Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, which is an impartial panel of experts) reviewed these ingredients and found parabens to be safe as cosmetic ingredients as long as they are being used in safe concentrations (standards imposed are to be respected by manufacturers). CIR Expert Panel assessed the safety of these ingredients and declared them non toxic, non carcinomous (non cancerous), non irritating and non sensitizing.

    It is probably up to everyone to identify any sensitivity to these compounds and use cosmetics suitable for their skin. Once more, a label should be our first contact with a product. Parabens are efficient preservatives and great anti bacterial agents that will ensure the quality of your cosmetic product and preserve it from a large variety of microorganisms.
    There are alternatives and many skin care companies now create paraben –free products, not because they are a danger for population but because of the demand. Extra caution is necessary again because preservative free products increase the chances of microorganisms contamination while other preservatives used to replace parabens (the product is paraben free but this doesn’t exclude preservatives totally) could have the same side effects and represent a real danger for your health.


    • It’s good to start talking about Parabens because few people know about them. In fact, my web browser is telling me I misspelled a word evertime I write “paraben.” It just goes to show you how low awareness is…especially among teens and college-age students that are battling acne.

      They have an upward struggle as 90% of acne treatment products contain parabens. I myself am in college and battling acne, and I just learned about parabens on http://campusacnetruth.org/

      After doing some research, I came across an interesting video on the Cornell University Website that refers to parabens as “environmental estrogens” because they cause breast tissue cells to divide, thus increasing the probability of a mutation.

    • I was recently informed by a co-worker that parabens were found in the canser tissue removed during her operation. I am baffled at how many products contain these “environmental estrogens”. Is anyone familiar with products that claim to be paraben free?

    • There is no conclusive proof that parabens cause breast cancer. The study that you cited was very flawed and the conclusions drawn were not based on conclusive evidence but assumptions by readers. Here is a link that explains the study and what was lacking. http://www.theb-spot.com/blog/?cat=7 If you don’t want to use products with parabens- that’s fine- but it’s important to know and understand the whole story so that you can make an informed decision.

    • Very nice collection of information on that question. Thanks to the author. I have been looking for such an article since January! Thank you again!

    • All this puts on the guard.

    • I really loved this article but it’s tough to remember it all how can i learn all these names!

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