Parabens are a widely used ingredient in personal care products. You can find them in pretty much every cosmetic product in your home (shampoos, moisturizers, cleansing gels, toners, make-up products).
As you may have noticed, nowadays a lot of cosmetics come with the label “paraben-free”.
You might be wondering why should you avoid them even if they can be found in 85 % of cosmetic products. Over the past few years, a debate has been going on among scientists whether these ingredients may be harmful for our health.
What are parabens?
Parabens are a group of preservatives used to prevent bacterial and microbial contamination of products, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom. The most common names of parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben, but you may also find isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben or benzylparaben. Their importance is unquestionable as they are a necessary antibacterial ingredient in every cosmetic product.
So what's the problem with them?
Some scientists started questioning their safety use after finding low concentrations of parabens in breast cancer tumors. That's because parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen. However, it has been proved that parabens are 100,000 times weaker than natural estrogen in the body, so they're far too weak to have a role in the development of breast cancer.
Should I still avoid them?
The answer would be no. Despide the controversy going on in the media, researchers have come to the conclusion that parabens, in the small amounts used in cosmetics, are not harmful ingredients consumers should avoid.
It's up to you if you decide to choose the precautious way of not using products containing them. But you should know they have been allowed for use as cosmetic ingredients by the U.S. FDA and the European Commission and there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of products containing parabens.
I personally think the media has an important role in developing the intellect of the masses and tends to exaggerate, leading people to misconception. My fear is that, trying to get away of some things, we are approaching others that are worse. I'm pretty sure that those “paraben free” products contain more dangerous substituants or even worse, other preservatives with less of a proven track record.
What do you think? What are other ingredients you try to avoid when shopping for cosmetic products?