What Are Parabens?
Boycotting parabens but no idea what they actually are?
In a world where we're increasingly aware of what we eat, it's no surprise that we're equally aware of the ingredients in our skincare and what we put on our face.
So we're told parabens are bad for our health and our skin but what actually ARE they?
Bacteria? Bad particles?
Parabens are a type of preservative, first introduced in the 1950s. They're used to prolong shelf life in many health and beauty products by preventing the growth of mould and bacteria within them.
Unfortunately, it's not just a case of looking for 'CONTAINS PARABENS' on the bottle.
When it comes to studying the label of your fave serum, the names to look out for are butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben aka the most commonly found parabens.
Why are parabens thought to be bad for us?
'Parabens allow products to survive for months, even years, in our bathroom cabinet; however when you use these products, they can also enter your body through your skin', explains Tom Oliver, Nutritionist & Personal Trainer.
In 2004, a British study found traces of five parabens in the breast tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied. The study didn't prove that parabens can cause cancer but identified that the parabens were able to penetrate the skin and remain within tissue.
Parabens are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen. Too much oestrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumours, which is why paraben use has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues.
Why are parabens bad for the environment?
Parabens aren't just bad for humans, they impact the environment too. 'A scientific study reported that parabens have been found for the first time in the bodies of marine mammals', reveals Tom, 'Researchers believe that it is likely these parabens come from products we use that are washed into the sewage system and released into the environment.'
So we should stop using parabens ASAP, right?
Don't panic. It's important to note that the percentage of preservative in a formulation is generally very small.
It's difficult to say if parabens are categorically "bad" for us, but there are many other preservatives now available so it's no longer necessary to use them.
Manufacturers are creating new and effective preservatives all the time so there is a greater choice currently available.
Some people assume that paraben-free and natural products are simply not as effective. 'Paraben is cheap to mass-market,' explains Tom, 'but there are so many synthetic-free products on the market that are just as effective, I don't see the need of using artificial ingredients which can cause irritation and stress, especially to sensitive skin types.'
In general, never take marketing and adverts at face value. With so much information available, it's easy to educate ourselves on the label content of our beauty products.
For an approved preservative listing, refer to ECOCERT - a certification body for the development of standards in natural and organic cosmetics.