Many organic and natural beauty products are touting the label paraben-free, but that doesn’t really explain why you wouldn’t want parabens in the first place. What makes parabens so bad and why would you want to avoid them?
What Are Parabens?
Parabens are some of the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics. These preservatives keep the cosmetics from growing mold or bacteria. The most common parabens you’ll find on an ingredients list are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. Any other kinds of parabens are easily identifiable by their tell-tale suffix.
You’re most likely to find parabens in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, facial and shower cleansers, and scrubs. They’re found in pretty much any product that contains a significant amount of water. They can even be found in perfumes and fragrances but they don’t have to be listed as ingredients. They’re usually a part of the scent recipes and those are considered trade secrets.
They are a controlled substance and are limited to concentrations of only 0.4% of a single paraben, and total paraben concentrations maw out at around 0.8% in a single product. But when it’s estimated that 75-90% of cosmetics have parabens in them, they can really add up.
Why Are They Bad For You?
What makes parabens so dangerous is that they are not water soluble and they are able to be absorbed into the skin. The majority of the products they are in are ones that used almost daily, meaning repeated exposure from multiple products.
They are found in so many products that traces of them can be found in nearly all urine samples from US adults, and in slightly higher amounts in adolescent girls and adult women.
The chemical structure of parabens is very similar to that of estrogen. This means that it can bind to the estrogen receptors in your body and even express some of the genes that are normally caused in estradiol. It’s this ability that is linked to the growth of breast cancer tumor cells. In fact, a 2004 study was done on 20 people with breast cancer. In 19 of them, they detected traces of six different parabens.
It can also lead to damaged skin cells from daily use, which can eventually lead to abnormal cell growth. The estrogen-like effects that it mimics can lead to the formation of malignant melanoma, a particular kind of skin cancer.
What Else Can You Use?
Now you don’t have to completely cut out parabens from your skincare products. That would be difficult anyways since they are so prevalent. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.
Recently, natural and organic beauty companies have been dropping parabens from their ingredients lists and finding other preservatives that aren’t linked to so many problems. This means that you can start swapping out some of your old paraben-filled products for more natural products.
Try this paraben-free Organic Honey Body Butter instead of body lotion or try Clean Break Oil-Free Moisturizer, which is also free of synthetic fragrances and colors. If you want to get rid of parabens from your makeup, why not get this blush from Kjaer Weis.
Or you can find preservative-free make-up. Unfortunately, since they won’t have the antimicrobial chemicals in them, they’ll have a shorter shelf life. This Palette Perfection Eye Quad from Lilah B comes free from any synthetic preservative.