Parabens is one a group of widely used preservatives not only in the cosmetics industry but in foods as well. There are many reasons for this. First, parabens are really good at fighting bacteria and fungi, i.e. micro-organisms that naturally develop in cosmetics or food formulations. In addition, they are stable over time, which means that products can be assigned with longer expiration dates with obvious results in sales and marketing efforts. Lastly, they are consistent with a wide pH range. It is almost like their use is justifiable, isn’t it? Well, like I said: almost.
Suspicions about parabens were always there. I can see the “weirdo” running around in the lab, shouting “A day will come when parabens will be regulated! A day will come when parabens will be subject to investigations! A day will come when consumers will find out everything about parabens!”. Just as I can see his co-workers laughing at him. That day came in 2004, when Dr. Philippa Darbre published a research in the Journal of Applied Toxicology suggesting that parabens had been found in breast tumors. Ever since, scientists, companies and consumers have engaged in an endless discourse about the toxicity of parabens. It all makes me kind of numb. Not because there is a certain amount of fear
Do parabens really cause cancer?
If you are looking for hard evidence, you will not find it. The Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety of the European Commission, for instance, suggests that the data available today do not allow for a final conclusion to be drawn regarding the toxicity of parabens, adopting the industry’s proposal that further research is required. Similarly the FDA does not recognize any health risks associated with the use of parabens in cosmetics on the ground of unproved causality between parabens and cancer.
Are you feeling any better? We sure don’t. The mere suspicion that parabens might - just might - be responsible for life threatening diseases is enough to raise concern. For us, the real question is not whether these chemicals cause cancer. It is whether we should wait for the evidence to stop using them. In fact, why use anything that is not natural. What business does a chemical element have with a living organism in the first place? None.
Fortunately for all of us, companies like BioSelect, BioAroma, Macrovita/Olivelia, Mastic Spa and many more have made a long way in capturing the powers hidden in natural ingredients like olive oil, mastic, herbs, essential oils etc., to give us… well, to give us a choice. The rest is up to us.
How do I recognize parabens?
When you see the propyl-, methyl, benzyl-, ethyl- and butyl- prefix, it is very likely that the second composite of the word will be -paraben.
So, now you know.
Be well and let beauty come naturally.