Paraben spot check: grab the closest skin or hair care product and read the label on the back. Anything ending in “-paraben”? If so, it’s not surprising to say the least. Parabens are in almost everything on drugstore shelves. They are ubiquitous, but does use cause long-term issues?
Parabens are preservatives used in cosmetics, medicines, and food. The more the public demands more information and transparency around what they are consuming, the more we learn about ingredients. And as it turns out, despite their frequent use, parabens can actually be quite harmful. Keeps reading to discover why and how you can find better alternatives for products you use every day.
What is there to know about parabens?
Parabens are used to extend the shelf life of beauty and hair care products. The most common parabens in skin and beauty products are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.
These substances are usually colorless and are almost odorless and tasteless. Thanks to that, they lend very well to many different types of products from food to medicines to beauty products.
Plus, parabens are nothing new. They’ve been popping up in commercial product recipes since the 1920s. It wasn’t until late 90s that they finally started getting a bad reputation. So what shifted public perception?
What’s the dark side to parabens?
The controversy surrounding parabens has to do with various studies speculating harmful effects. It is thought that parabens can act like estrogen in the body, disrupting the functioning of the hormone systems. That can further affect fertility. Scientists have also become concerned with parabens’ relation to cancers, particularly breast cancer.
Now, you can commonly find “paraben-free” choices. However, this doesn’t mean that these cosmetics are free from preservatives and stabilizers. Good news, if you want to keep your products sanitary. Instead of the original preservative, it will be swapped for another.
What about the benefits?
Parabens have not yet been proven to be directly beneficial to the body. But that doesn’t mean they’re good for nothing. Cosmetics are exceptionally good at breeding microorganisms. That’s where parabens come in, acting as a protective shield against various fungi and molds. That keeps harmful, even toxic contaminants away from creams you put on your skin.
Preservatives also ensure freshness. Thanks to that, we can now order our cosmetics from one side of the world without worrying that they’ll be expired by the time they make it to us.
So what’s the verdict?
The jury is still out.
While there are some studies that seem to link parabens to harmful medical outcomes, they also keep toxic contaminants out of your products. They are both good and bad.
However, until recently all paraben types were classified together. Now researchers know it’s might be more about quantity. Some studies conclude that perhaps they aren’t usually harmful in small quantities. Many manufacturers have cut down and lowered concentrations of parabens in beauty products to smaller amounts.
Currently, the FDA doesn’t regulate the use of parabens in cosmetics. Studies regarding the safety and human impact of parabens in cosmetics are ongoing. This means that until the FDA finds definite evidence, manufacturers can and will continue to green light parabens in their recipes.
Is it possible to go completely paraben-free?
Anything is possible! But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. The truth is, parabens are so widely used, that giving them up completely would be a real challenge. Most products available at your local beauty store or pharmacy have at least one paraben on their ingredients list.
But of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t paraben-free cosmetics to choose from. Ditching parabens is becoming more common among beauty companies, so you’ll definitely have options in the eco or bio aisle. And aside from the health controversy, paraben-free products are particularly loved by those with sensitive and allergy-prone skin.
You can swap out your normal paraben-filled go-to product for certain products with a natural substitute. Instead of using a store-bought toner containing parabens, try out rose water, chamomile water, or cucumber water. And when it comes to hair oils, give olive oil or argan oil a shot.
Some products even take it up a notch more, going completely preservative-free. These types of items have a shorter expiration date, lasting up to several months. However, keep in mind, if you purchase a product that’s completely preservative-free, it should be stored in a cold and dark place, like your refrigerator. But regardless of where you stand on the paraben controversy, it’s always good to make conscious purchasing decisions that are good for your skin and body!