PARABENS IN COSMETICS? Here’s What You Need to Know

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Today you will find many cosmetics labeled “No parabens” or “Paraben-free”

Grab the nearest facial cream and have a look at the ingredients section. You may have noticed a component called “paraben”. Parabens are preservatives that are used not only for cosmetics, but also medicines and food. Unfortunately, they are not well received. What are parabens and why are they harmful to the body?

What are parabens?

They are a group of organic chemical compounds used for preservation of food, medicines, and cosmetics. For chemists, parabens are p-hydroxybenzoic acid esters, which are distinguished by different alkyl groups. They exhibit mycostatic properties, therefore they excellently protect against mould and microbes.

Parabens keep food, medicines, and cosmetics fresh for up to several months. They have proven themselves very useful, as they do not interfere with the product and do not change its characteristics. They come in the form of a white or colourless powder and are almost odourless and tasteless. Thanks to this, parabens easily found their way into many food products, cosmetics, and medicines since the 1940s. But in recent times, parabens have gained a bad reputation. Why?

Health hazards caused by parabens

Due to their popularity, parabens have been extensively tested throughout the years, and to this day, many doubts about the safety of parabens have not yet been resolved.

The avalanche of negative opinions about parabens started in around 2004. During this time, many toxicological tests performed on patients with breast cancer revealed that it was linked to parabens that were found in their purest form. In high levels, parabens are the most harmful

Parabens are also notorious for negative effects on estrogen receptors, reducing fertility in men. Due to this research, conducted in 2005, cosmetic companies introduced products that are paraben-free. That is why today you will find many cosmetics labeled “No parabens” or “Paraben-free”. However, this does not mean that these cosmetics are devoid of preservatives – they are simply replaced by other preservatives that the average user will not be able to recognize.

Parabens in cosmetics

Until recently, all parabens were thrown into one bag. However, the latest research from 2011 proved that not all are variants are harmful. Indeed, much higher concentrations of propylparaben and butylparaben (hazardous to health) were previously used. The reduced concentration (not exceeding 0.19%) of these parabens is not harmful and can still be used in cosmetics, food, or medicines. However, one should be wary of those with complex and branched chemical chains.

In what types of cosmetics are parabens most often found?

Parabens and other preservatives are most commonly found in products that are susceptible to bacterial growth and rot, as well as those that are meant to be used for an extended period of time. Most often, you will find these chemical compounds in various face and body creams, oils, tonics, lipsticks, body lotions and lip glosses. Parabens are also in powders and foundations, and even in deodorants and perfumes!

Is it possible to give up parabens?

Completely avoiding parabens is nearly impossible, especially nowadays where most drugstore cosmetics have at least one, if not multiple, types. Thankfully, there are cosmetics that are preservative-free, which are used for sensitive and allergic skin. It is best to look for eco-cosmetics made with natural ingredients.

Additionally, it is worth trying refrigerated creams. Their expiration date is shorter than cosmetics off the shelf, but they do not contain preservatives in their composition, which is why they are required to be stored in a cold and dark place.

If you use tonics and do not want to use those containing parabens, make your own! Create a mixture of pure rose water, chamomile, or cucumber.

Be sure to read the composition of cosmetics carefully, as we have already mentioned, manufacturers often replace parabens with other preservatives. The most common substitutes include derivatives of carboxylic acids, aldehydes, phenols, guanidines, ammonium salts, as well as alcohols, organic mercury compounds, sodium iodate, heterocyclic compounds, and sulfites and bisulphites.

Parabens in cosmetics are quite a controversial topic, and although they have been thoroughly tested, many people have mixed feelings about them when it comes to their effects on the body. Specialists warn that they may cause allergic reactions and may harm the endocrine system. It is worth mentioning that some of them (eg. methylparaben) also occur in nature, and more specifically in blueberries, and are not harmful.

Juliusz is a blogger at Versum – salon online management software.

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