Are you a label reader?
I have increasingly become a label reader as I’ve gotten older. My metabolism is slower, my fine lines a little deeper, and my hair a little less lustrous. So of course I want to apply products that will at least minimize the signs of an urban mama (aka woman with perpetual lack of sleep living in a somewhat smoggy place).
I first starting becoming aware of parabens when I noticed that a few beauty products touted themselves as being paraben free. Ok, I guess it is a good thing that my cleanser is paraben free then? I decided to read up on parabens so I could understand its function and whether it is safe to use.
What are parabens?
Parabens are a type of chemical compound of para-hydroxybenzoic acid commonly used as preservatives to extend the shelf life of many beauty products (usually water based since oil based products wouldn’t need it). They are placed in products ranging from shampoo, moisturizer, foundation, and shaving gels to fight against the growth of bacteria, fungus, and microbes. This man-made chemical (though naturally occurring in blueberries!) is easy and affordable to make. If you look at a personal care product in your bathroom right now, you may find a type of paraben such as:
Why should we be concerned about parabens?
The biggest concern around parabens to date is that they have a weak ability to mimic the hormone estrogen, which may lead to breast cancer. It has also been found in malignant breast cancer tumors as well. Animal testing has also shown that parabens lead to an adverse reaction for the male reproductive system. Yet Health Canada and the US FDA have stated that parabens are safe at current levels in beauty products. The only unanswered question then: is minimal, but cumulative exposure over many years damaging? The results aren’t in and it will take years of study before we know the answer to that question.
What are my other choices?
In the meantime, many cosmetics companies are already looking for alternatives. Natural ingredients such as rosemary may help to lengthen to shelf life of products, but more research and testing need to occur to find out safe, effective preservatives for our favorite products. They, or another type of preservative, are still in many beauty products in the meantime so that the product can be protected against bacteria or other microbes.
For now, I’m going to limit my exposure to parabens and reading about them has turned me away from some products I wanted to try like SK-II’s facial essence (I’d be using it at least once a day so it would be absorbed frequently over a long period). I’m confident that more research as well as more alternatives will be available over time.
- Parabens preserve personal care products
- Paraben levels in beauty items now are very low
- Long-term effects of parabens on our health are unknown