In the ever-changing, ever-growing world of skincare, every few months, there is a novel trend. New trends lead to more unique products and newer lingo in the world of beauty that might be difficult to keep up with. However, today, with changing trends, awareness among people has also increased, and that has made them more careful about what they choose to put on their skin. One such chemical that has been in the news is parabens.
Widely used in beauty products since the 1920s, the side effects of parabens have been a cause of concern for decades now. So, what exactly are parabens? Why are they a cause of concern? What does it mean when a product is labelled to be paraben-free? What should one look for when buying paraben-free products? Scroll down as we answer all these questions for you!
- What Are Parabens
- How Do Parabens Affect Your Health
- What is Paraben-Free Skincare
- What to Look For On a Label
- FAQs about paraben free product
What Are Parabens
Parabens are a family of chemicals used as preservatives in various cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. They are derived from a chemical known as para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA) that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. The beauty industry has relied on parabens for ages for their efficacy in increasing the shelf life of products and preventing the harmful growth of bacteria within them.
Since parabens are widely used across the industry, it’s essential to read your product labels carefully. To make things easier, here is a list of products that contain parabens that you must watch out for:
- Facial Cleansers
- Shower Gels
- Facial Scrubs
- Lip balms
- Eye Creams
In 1960, the side effects and dangers of parabens on the skin started to surface, making people question their incorporation in products. And it is only now, that things have begun to change, and we have started seeing the availability of paraben-free products in the market.
How Do Parabens Affect Your Health
Multiple scientific studies have found a link between parabens and a range of health problems. When used in large amounts, parabens might even go on to cause breast cancer and effect a decrease in reproductive hormones in men. They can also lead to the development of malignant melanoma. Here are some other health problems parabens have been linked to:
1. Breast cancer
This is probably one of the biggest health problems that excessive paraben usage has been linked to. Research has found that parabens mimic the activity of the hormone oestrogen in the body. This is known to cause normal as well as cancerous breast cells to grow and divide, thus causing breast cancer. Since there are various factors that cause breast cancer, a definite link has not been proved. However, two studies conducted in 2004 and in 2019 respectively in different parts of the world have found a significant amount of parabens in the bodies of women affected by breast cancer.
2. Effects on reproductive health
Research has found that parabens can also lead to an increased risk of reproductive problems. Using products that contain excessive parabens can contribute to adverse health effects in both expecting mothers and their babies. They can potentially lead to reproductive complications as well as developmental issues in children.
3. Allergic reactions
Parabens can elicit irritation and allergic reactions in some people, especially those who have sensitive and damaged skin. In fact, for those suffering from skin conditions such as eczema, contact dermatitis or psoriasis, using products with parabens is a big no-no as it can have inflammatory effects on the skin, thus worsening their situation. Studies have also found that using parabens-infused products on broken skin can cause allergic rashes.
4. Disrupt the endocrine system
The estrogen-mimicking behavior of parabens makes them disruptors of the endocrine system in the body, which can lead to a variety of problems. Endocrine disruption has been linked to early puberty, the onset of acne in adults, breast growth in males, developmental and neurological disorders. Some studies have also shown that parabens can affect thyroid hormone levels, leading to adverse effects on health.
Parabens Hurt The Environment Too…
Apart from affecting our bodies and health in various ways, some more dangerous than others, parabens have been linked to ecological harm. Since waste released in rivers and other water bodies is most likely to contain parabens, they can affect fish and other marine life as well. Moreover, when parabens are washed off by chlorinated tap water, many by-products may also form. This can cause harm to animals who are exposed to them.
What is Paraben-Free Skincare
No one likes to slap chemicals on their skin, and yet all these years, that’s what we’ve been doing. However, with the side effects of parabens becoming more evident, sense has prevailed, and several brands have come up with greener and healthier options that are safer for your skin. Here’s where paraben-free products come in. Free of parabens, these products are becoming more and more popular as people choose to opt for clean and paraben-free products. While gentler on the skin, these products are just as effective and do not use any ingredients that can cause irritation on the skin. In fact, no matter what your skin concern is, there are paraben-free products available in every category. These are prepared using ingredients that are natural and minimally processed, thus making them non-toxic for the skin.
What to Look For On a Label
When looking for paraben-free products, the easiest way to spot them is by the ‘free from parabens’ label, or even the 0% parabens’ label, which will be an evident part of its packaging. However, some brands are notorious. They may claim on their packaging that their products are paraben-free, but it may not be accurate. That’s why you must always check the list of ingredients before buying any product. The most common paraben compounds that you can spot are: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropyl paraben and isobutyl paraben.
Some products use essential oils as natural preservatives to ward off bacteria and microorganisms to avoid using synthetic preservatives. However, do keep in mind that they are natural preservatives, so your products might not last as long as those with parabens do. Some products use phenoxyethanol, which is one of the most popular replacements for parabens. It is an effective antimicrobial agent and gets rid of almost all the bacteria, keeping the product safe.
Brands are trying to come up with newer alternatives to parabens to give customers paraben-free products. However, as consumers, we need to understand that it comes at a cost. Parabens are cheap; their alternatives are not. Thus, it helps to keep the bigger picture in mind when making the shift to paraben-free products because at the end of the day, we want products that do not cause any harm to our bodies or the environment.
FAQs about paraben free product
Q. Is Dove paraben-free?
A. Most products by Dove are paraben-free. Those products that have parabens use those that are proven safe.
Q. Which paraben is dangerous?
A. Some parabens disrupt endocrine on a larger scale, which have long-term side effects. These are the parabens that are more dangerous, and they are long-chain parabens such as isobutylparaben, butylparaben, isopropyl and propylparaben.
Q. How much paraben is safe?
A. According to the EU’s Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety, a total paraben concentration of 0.8% in cosmetic products is safe. 0.4% of ethylparabens and mathylparabens each are permitted for using in cosmetics. 0.19% of butylparaben + propylparaben is permissible in cosmetics.