“Paraben-Free” is a common phrase appearing on skin & hair care products recently, but do we really understand what Parabens are, and why we should avoid them?
Here’s the low-down on what they are, the health effects they may have, and the science behind why we should swerve them in our beauty products…
What Are Parabens?
Parabens are a group of preservatives, commonly used in cosmetics to control the growth of microbes and bacteria. They’re derived from a chemical called Parahydroxybenzoic acid, and have been used in products since the 1930s.
Different Parabens work best under different conditions, and can defend against different microbes, so often they are used in combination to enhance their preservative effect.
Similarly to preservatives in food, they are used for good reason, but have obtained a bad reputation for being ‘bad for us’, and something we should avoid…
Why The Bad Press?
Although deemed safe, Parabens have become known as a ‘bad beauty word’ in the last 10 years or so, and ‘Paraben-free’ is a common box to tick when buying products. Parabens have a mild estrogenic activity, and after a few studies appeared, people began to question if they were as safe as they claimed.
Estrogenic activity means that they bind to estrogen receptors, and can act as the female sex hormone. Excessive exposure to estrogen has been linked to the development of breast cancer, so Parabens are thought to exacerbate the likelihood of this outcome.
In 2004, Parabens were found in multiple human breast tumors, and this called for many manufacturers to raise concern about the use of them in their products, leading to a limitation of Parabens in all personal care products.
A study reported that multiple Parabens used together could cause ‘rapid growth of breast cancer cells’ in vitro (cultured outside the human body).
With what’s known about Parabens at the moment, they are still deemed as safe to use. Although they were found in breast cancer tissue, it doesn’t necessarily mean they caused it. However, even though there is no definite link, most people don’t want to take that risk. Lots of forward-thinking companies now offer Paraben-free products as standard, so opting for an alternative is an easy choice.
So, wherever you can, opt for Paraben-free to ensure a safer, more natural product experience.