What Does Paraben Free Mean In Clean Beauty and Why You Need To Care
What the heck are Parabens?
There are so many strange and scary sounding ingredients listed in hair care and skin care products, it’s hard to figure out what you’re actually putting on your face and body and why you should care. One group of ingredients that seems to pop up everywhere are Parabens and their nasty chemical cousins, methyl parabens, propyl parabens and butyl parabens. This group of chemical toxins are like the ugly stepsisters of personal care products, and you should definitely stay far away from them. Parabens are a chemical preservative used in the non-natural cosmetic and personal care industry, in products like soap, conditioner, moisturizer, shampoo, and deodorant. Like we said, those pesky parabens really are everywhere!
Danger, Parabens Lurking!
Let’s break down the science stuff. Chemically speaking, parabens are an ester, meaning a compound molecule formed from a combination of acid and alcohol. Since parabens are rapidly absorbed into the body, the Center for Disease Control has done extensive scientific research and reported a widespread existence of parabens found lurking in the human body. Yikes! In Europe, the use of certain parabens is actually prohibited in fragrances because it causes loss of skin pigmentation.
Are Parabens really Poison?
The short answer is, maybe. In 2004, after a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology showed the presence of parabens in some breast tissue tumors, parabens landed on the cancer-causing chemical blacklist, and questions arose about their safety. While the FDA officially announced that the study “did not show a cause-effect relationship between parabens and breast cancer,” many doubts remain in the scientific community. One influential doubter, is the Environmental Working Group, who has done numerous independent studies regarding parabens and found that it’s possible for parabens to negatively impact the immune system, increase allergies and sensitivity, and, yes, even lead to cancer.
Parabens: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!
The Good: Sorry, there really is no good when it comes to parabens, healthwise, but they do have some benefits, which explains why so many personal care companies use them. Parabens extend the shelf life of products so that bacteria and fungi cannot take up residence in your shampoo or moisturizer.
The Bad: Parabens are a synthetic preservative, whose sole purpose is to ensure safety and product quality. Manufacturers can’t remove parabens without adding another preservative to replace it. The journey of your Personal care products explains why. Products travel thousands of miles in non-climate controlled trucks to make it to store shelves. Once there, the products hang out for even more time while they’re inventoried and stocked, then sit around on store shelves before you buy them. Even after purchase, your products are sitting around your house for yet more time before you use them up. That’s waaaaay too long for a product to stay fresh and safe to use. So that explains why manufacturers feel justified in adding parabens to their products, cancer scares be damned.
The Ugly: A paraben-free product is a good start, but unfortunately doesn’t mean there are no preservatives in the product. It only means there are no parabens in the product. The potential danger is that the manufacturer may take out the parabens, only to replace them with another chemical preservative that’s just as toxic. Really? Why? Since research on product ingredients is so time-consuming and costly, it may be another ten years before the dangers of that replacement synthetic preservative are discovered.
But before you get all parabent out of shape, just know that the natural skincare industry has embraced a conscious, chemical-free, paraben-free approach, which you probably know is a good thing, but do you know why paraben-free is the only way to be? There are many alternative natural preservatives available to keep the contents of personal hair care and skincare products fresh and safe to use. Some of these natural, paraben-free superstars are Citric Acid, Rosemary Extract, and Grapefruit Seed Extract. All of these natural beauties will keep your products safe and sustainable. The key takeaway is to avoid all synthetic preservatives, not just parabens. Instead, opt for pure, chemical-free, natural products made with ingredients you can pronounce and understand, without a Phd in Molecular Biology.
A Paraben-Free Eternity?
But when it comes to parabens, there is more than reasonable doubt about their safety. That’s why natural health advocates believe in making sure an ingredient is safe before it’s used in a product, not after it’s shown to cause cancer or other harm. The appearance of more paraben-free products on the market is a direct result of manufacturers listening to consumers. If manufacturers feel their products won’t sell as well because of parabens, you can bet they’ll start looking for alternative, natural preservatives for their products. So start voting with your wallet, and refuse to buy products with parabens. And soon, when you shop for personal care products, you’re going to start seeing more and more products with paraben-free called out on the front of the label. It’s a win for your skin, a win for your health, and a win for the planet.