Paraben-Free – What Does It Actually Mean?

You may have noticed lately that “paraben-free” labels have been popping up on some beauty products at the drugstore and elsewhere. That is because parabens are now becoming the most widely used preservatives in personal care products.

Parabens are a common cosmetic ingredient and lately the object of much vilification. Find out what they really are and if you should be seeking out paraben-free products. What exactly does paraben-free mean, and why could it matter? Let’s take a closer look at off the shelf products that contain it.

What are Parabens?

Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products such as soap, moisturizers, shaving cream and underarm deodorant. To get a bit science-y, parabens are esters (a compound formed from acid and alcohol) of p-hydroxybenzoic acid.

Parabens are actually several distinct chemicals with a similar molecular structure. Four of these are used frequently in cosmetics: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. Methylparaben and propylparaben are the most common of these. Parabens are most common in personal care products that contain significant amounts of water, such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions and facial and shower cleansers and scrubs, in order to discourage the growth of microbes.

Companies use parabens since the 1950’s to extend the shelf life of products and prevent growth of bacteria and fungi. They stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favorite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.

What are the Health concerns?

One of the greatest concerns is that parabens might disrupt hormone function, in particular estrogen, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. A 2004 study conducted in England revealed the presence of malignant breast cancer tumors. Some experts fear that the body may store them over time, adding to the risk, and therefore recommend limiting the exposure to them. However, this study was not conclusive, as it did not establish that parabens caused the cancer. Until now, there is no final agreement between scientists as to whether or not parabens may contribute to cancer.

The Take-Away

So what do we do? Since most skincare products contain only minimal amounts of parabens anyway, there is no reason to panic. However, it is good to keep an eye on scientific development in that area, and it may be wise to limit your exposure. Today there are many options for paraben-free products to choose from, and they are usually clearly labeled as such.  Many natural and organic cosmetics manufacturers have found effective alternatives to parabens to prevent microbial growth in personal care products. Some companies have created preservative-free products that have shorter shelf lives than conventional products (six months to one year) that if used daily are likely to be done before their expiration date.

You can shop for our full selection here or check few of our picks below:

Bioderma Atoderm Lip Balm –  A paraben-free and perfume-free moisturizing and nourishing lip balm that repairs and soothes damaged lips instantly.

Jan Marini Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant SPF 30 – This paraben-free daily face protectant provides broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection to decrease the risk of premature skin aging.

Cleanser by Vi Derm – Ideal for cleansing and gentle exfoliation, this sulfate and paraben-free cleanser contains Azelaic Acid, Willow Bark, and botanicals Apple, Lemon and Sugarcane.

 

Injeel Firoz

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