The boss (me) told me (me) I was supposed to write about a hell-no-we-won’t-go ingredient – parabens. But really digging in to the research revealed more questions than answers.
For years now, we’ve been told to avoid parabens in the products we use, but I wasn’t sure we all knew exactly why. Well, we took this ingredient category, stripped it down, and created a fun in-and-out article for you.
How did we get here?
We start getting exposed to parabens in earnest in our teenage years – the same years when we’re learning how to groom ourselves. Common personal care products like makeup, cleansers, sunscreen and toothpastes all contain parabens. When they’re applied to your skin, a small amount of parabens are absorbed, and may even reach your bloodstream. It can even be detected in your urine. So is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Are parabens linked to cancer?
There have been claims that exposure to parabens can lead to reduced hormone production, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer, but there isn’t enough evidence to support that thinking. Studies that claim this did so because they found small traces in tumors, but no one has shown a true cause and effect. They have shown that an allergic reaction can result from paraben containing products being applied to damaged or broken skin (basically a shortcut to your bloodstream).
So, are parabens really that bad?
Parabens are used in products at concentrations well below toxic levels, so it’s unlikely that you can hurt yourself with the products you use. Regardless, the use of parabens as a preservative in many products was banned in Europe in 2014. The CDC has a different take on it, sharing that parabens are generally non-toxic to humans.
Parabens, it turns out, may be less sensitizing (cause an allergic reaction) than other common preservatives used in cosmetic products such as quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea.
Okay, thanks for the heads up. Now what?
Paraben-free products cost more money. But they’re not just paraben-free; often they’ll also exclude other harmful ingredients, and so the cost could be justified. Organic and all-natural skincare brands, including probiotic skincare brands, typically leave out parabens from their formulations. So if you’re unsettled by the lack of conclusive research on either end of this debate, going organic might make sense for you.