When you step into any cosmetics store, you’ll almost always find products that are labeled “paraben-free.” If you’re like us, seeing this will probably trigger the following questions: What are parabens? Are parabens bad for your skin? If so, why? We’re here to give you the lowdown on parabens and whether or not you should avoid them for the sake of your skin.
WHAT ARE PARABENS?
First thing’s first, you have to understand what parabens are before we jump into whether or not they are bad for you. Parabens are preservatives that keep bacteria and other microbes out of your favorite creams, lotions, concealers, and a long list of other personal care and cosmetic products.
Parabens are commonly described as “chemicals,” which gives them a bad rap. But technically, all ingredients are made up of chemicals. Surprising to many, parabens are actually made up of an acid naturally found in blackberries and raspberries. You can find parabens in product ingredient lists by looking for the word in more complicated ingredient names, like methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.
SO ARE PARABENS BAD FOR YOUR SKIN?
Since many skin care and cosmetic products proudly display that they are “paraben-free,” it makes sense that you might assume parabens are bad for your skin. But the real controversy doesn’t have to do with skin health. Instead, it has to do with the health of your body.
The Washington Post notes that parabens can interfere with your body’s hormones, most notably estrogen. As a result, scientists have studied the chemical’s possible links to breast cancers, developmental disorders, fertility issues, and chronic diseases. But before you dig through our online store for paraben-free products, let’s look at the research. Parabens aren’t as bad for you as many make it out to be.
In 2004, a small study found trace amounts of parabens in breast cancer tumors, which helped trigger a lot of the controversy you see today. But the American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that there were three big issues with the study’s findings. The study did not show that parabens caused or contributed to breast cancer, and parabens have weak estrogen-like properties. ACS continues by saying that it is much more likely that natural estrogen, or those taken as a hormone replacement, play a role in breast cancer development than parabens.
The ACS concludes by saying that there are no clear health risks from parabens in cosmetics and skin care products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also found that there is currently no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of parabens in cosmetic products. Again, this conclusion is based on studies that have found that parabens have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally-occurring estrogen.
Although most authorities say that the tiny levels of parabens found in your cosmetic products should not cause harm, it’s best to avoid high levels of parabens. In a Washington Post article, Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute, said that experiments involving parabens have not been done on humans. Therefore, nobody really knows how much exposure leads to suggested health problems. That being said, there are extremely small amounts of parabens found in cosmetic products.
Since both the FDA and American Cancer Society find no clear health risks from the tiny levels of parabens in cosmetic products, it’s safe to assume that you’ll be just fine using them. There is no clear evidence that small amounts of paraben cause any health issues, and your body’s natural estrogen has been found to present a higher health risk.
That being said, you can always play it safe and choose from a wealth of products that are labeled paraben free, like SkinCeuticals’ Advanced Pigment Corrector and Physical Fusion UV Defense SP50.
Curious to learn more about the ingredients in your cosmetic products? Contact the True Skin Care Center today! We’re always here to help you understand what is actually good and bad for your particular skin based on our expert knowledge of cosmetics.