When I began my quest in search of skincare products I wanted to try, I read a lot of the labels to see what ingredients they contained or didn’t contain. Many of them, if not, all of them proudly advertised “NO PARABENS” or “PARABEN-FREE.” I had heard the word before, but didn’t think much of it, but this word kept popping up everywhere that the scientist in me decided to do a little research on the subject.
What are parabens you might ask? Well, parabens are common preservatives found mainly in cosmetics, skincare, shampoos and even some food and drugs. The most common parabens you might find on labels are: butylparaben, propylparaben, benzylparaben, and methylparaben. Basically, they help prevent the product from going bad, hence a preservative. For the science nerds out there, I provided the chemical structure of the most simplest form of a paraben (oh how I miss Organic Chemistry!):
To a lot of you, this picture may just look like a really bad pictionary drawing.
The paraben controversy has been going on for well over a decade. Research was done back in 2003 to 2005 on the harms of parabens. One research journal published that parabens were found in breast cancer tumors, however there was no evidence to indicate that parabens were the cause of breast cancer. The same source also stated that parabens could mimic the properties of estrogen (which as we all know, estrogen is one culprit in some breast cancers), however, the activity levels of these parabens were so small and insignificant, that it is highly unlikely that parabens could increase your risk of breast cancer. I’m not saying that we should take this information and toss it to the wind. There could possibly be a correlation here, but further research needs to be conducted in order to uphold or negate that these speculations are true.
Another published journal found that methylparaben exposed to sunlight (specifically UVB rays) may increase skin aging and DNA damage. I wasn’t able to read this article’s entirety but the questions I have about this is, how long was the paraben exposed for, what was the wattage, how much of the methylparaben was there on the skin, etc.
All in all, no matter what fancy scientific journal says about parabens, the amount of parabens in your cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, etc, are less than 1%. This really is an insignificant amount. I mean sure, if we were talking about paraben levels over 25%, maybe this would be a concern, but with the research done (or lack thereof) on this subject, I just don’t think parabens are anything to get your panties in a bunch for. Even the FDA states that at this time, there is no real threat or harm for the use of parabens used in the cosmetic industry. You can read what the FDA has to say about parabens here.
Having said that though, I do appreciate the efforts of scientists going out to investigate potential harms of any substances. I also do appreciate that there are cosmetic companies out there who care for their customers well-being that look for alternatives to help cater to the masses. That is good business (even if that company feels the same way I feel about parabens). I guess what I want you to take away from this post is use your own discretion. Be conscious what you put on your skin. And of course, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. If parabens are just not your thing, hey, no one is judging you. If parabens rock your socks off, more power to you!