To Paraben or Not to Paraben: Are Chemicals in Cosmetics Really That Bad For Us?

Monday, January 14, 2013


If you're anything like me, the only time you'll have really noticed about parabens being an ingredient in cosmetics are when they're labelled 'paraben free.' My view on that is always 'well that's good...I think' and I rarely pay much more attention beyond that. Some companies pride themselves on this fact, and it seems that one of their major selling points is that by not including these chemicals they're a step up from their competitors. But do we really care? Would a product sway you towards buying it over another similar product just because of this?

I've never had much of an opinion on chemicals and additives in cosmetics, and as far as I'm concerned if products are approved for general sale to the public then surely they're safe enough. With millions of people using them, wouldn't anything be noticed quickly and the products be removed? I'm just a typical consumer, and am a bit ashamed to admit that although issues like animal testing bother me massively I'd probably never switch to purely cruelty free cosmetics unless they were readily available. Not because I don't agree with the cause, but simply because convenience, price and choice of products are more likely to be deciding factors in what I choose to buy. The same applies with the issue of parabens and chemicals in cosmetics, but with rumours of being linked with cancers and other terrible afflictions I thought I'd look into the topic myself so I'm able to make a more informed decision. I suppose it makes sense that what we put onto our skin is just as important as what we consume, the skin is our largest organ and chemicals put onto it can be absorbed and end up in our bloodstream in the same way as unhealthy ingredients in food.


What Are Parabens/ What Are They Used For
The first question is what are parabens, and what are they used for? I had the general idea that 'parabens are bad' but up until writing this didn't know what they were or why they were used in products. Parabens are used as preservatives, as they have anti bacterial and anti fungicidal properties in a range of different formulas. That seems fair enough, right? We all know the importance of keeping cosmetics clean, and how they can harbour germs and bacteria when not used or stored properly. We need preservatives in our cosmetics and certain consumables to give them some sort of a shelf life, I wouldn't want to have to throw my makeup away every few weeks because it had expired. I think when most of us buy makeup we see it as a bit of an investment- £25 on a high end blush or a lipstick might seem a like a lot, but we generally justify it when we know it'll last us for a long time. I have to question how well makeup companies would do if the shelf life of their products was cut short, I know I'd be a lot less inclined to buy makeup (especially higher end) for a start.

Do We Really Need Parabens?
One of the arguments against using these types of chemicals in our cosmetics is that they're unnecessary; claims have been made that products made from high quality organic ingredients can have a shelf life of approximately two to three years. Personally though, I have to question this. I recently wrote a post on the expiration dates of cometics, and although there doesn't seem to be anything written in stone the general consensus is that makeup does expire after a few years and that's even with these chemicals added. So surely without them the shelf life would be even shorter? There's also been no valid research done to prove or refute this claim, and I can take a guess that these claims are being made by the organic companies themselves. In this case I think we have to question to what extent they might be trying to push their own products. Even if it's true and that highly organic ingredients make products that last on the shelves for two to three years, what sort of price would we be looking to pay? And how would it affect the range of products that were available to us? 


Undesirable Effects
One of the worrying rumours about parabens is that they're able to slightly mimic the female hormone estrogen which has been shown in some studies to play a role in the development of breast cancer. I think that you'd all agree that this is a pretty terrifying claim, however at present there is no solid evidence that directly establishes this link. That's not to say that there isn't truth in the claim or it shouldn't be taken seriously, but there has been no direct evidence to show this. However parabens have been shown to cause skin irritation and dermatitis in people with allergies to parabens, although this is only a small percentage of the population. The majority of individuals (even those with sensitive skin) seem to go completely unaffected.  Considering the low levels used in cosmetics, “FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. However, the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area.”

My Views on Parabens in Cosmetics
I'm not denying that these chemicals may have adverse health benefits somewhere along the line, even if it's a minor reaction in the small minority of people. But seems that there isn't enough solid evidence out there to either confirm or deny any major health implications they might have, and as with anything a negative reaction might occur in some individuals. At the moment I'm not going to worry too much about parabens in cosmetics. We're exposed to chemicals every day; we breathe in things like car fumes and cleaning products and there are even chemicals in the water we drink. It doesn't make it okay but I suppose it's just a way of life. Without these chemicals we wouldn't have the fuel to power our cars, the aeroplanes to take us on holiday. We wouldn't have cleaning products that keep harmful bacteria and viruses from thriving in our homes, hospitals, shops and restaurants. 

I think when it comes to food and cosmetics there are enough restrictions in place with the FDA and other organisations, which means that the chance of any harm occurring is minimised. I completely understand why some people would want to go all natural in their cosmetics, because the threat of cancer is always scary. For me though there isn't enough research to prove that it's worth switching to paraben free products just yet. I remember back when I was in secondary school and mobile phones were starting to become widely used, that there were rumours they could fry your brain in the same way as a microwave. Over ten years later and there's still little evidence to support that theory, and so it goes to show that sometimes you can't believe everything you hear in the media.

How do you feel about parabens in cosmetics? 
I'd love to hear what other people think on this subject
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23 comments

  1. Really awesome post. I have learnt so much. I don't mind that there are parabens in my makeup. Like thry said there is no evidence in these cancer claims. It's not that I don't care. I am aware of it but it doesn't bother me so much. I too choose products on quality, good pigments and price. I am trying to use more cruelty free products. But like you said it is very hard.

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    1. I feel exactly the same way, it's good to be aware of it but at the moment it doesn't bother me too much. Unless all cosmetic companies changed the ingredients they use I think completely switching over would be impractical x

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  2. Very helpful post! I do try to choose cosmetics that are paraben free, animal cruelty free, etc. However, sometimes this isn't always possible. Recently I bought a bunch of LUSH products and was very happy to support a cosmetics company that does not test on animals, but I read the packaging and a lot of them contain parabens.

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    1. Thank you :) I did think about Lush when I wrote this post, and they're a good example of a company that prides themselves on being cruelty free and using good quality ingredients but still include parabens. I think it would be extremely hard for companies to be able to skip using them all together x

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  3. Wonderful Post again! I don't believe to many claims until they are tested and proven to be true. Almost everything now a days says Can cause cancer, so Its hard to decide what to use and what not to use.
    Michael Kors giveaway is still going on blog. If you can, check it out here:
    http://outdoorswomen.blogspot.com/2013/01/new-years-resolutions-challenge-giveaway.html

    Thanks!

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    1. I thought the same thing when I wrote this post, so many things are said to cause cancer these days it's difficult to know what to believe. Thanks for linking to your giveaway I'll check it out :) x

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  4. I agree! There's so many chemicals present in our food, water, air that you simply cannot eliminate the risk of cancer just by going paraben free. There's all sorts of nasty stuff that could harm you too!

    Xxx

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    1. Exactly, we can't even be free of chemicals in the water we drink or the air we breathe. Apparently our bodies do a pretty good job of removing most of these toxins anyway, and surely without these chemicals to preserve things we'd be worse off because of the waste from expired products etc x

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  5. Great post - and very helpful in understanding what parabens are/do (or what people say they do!)
    While I'm very happy to use paraben-free products when it suits, I'm not going out of my way to avoid them, or stopping using any previously-loved products because of parabens.... it would only really make sense if I cut all unhealthy things out of my diet too, which i'm not going to be doing in a rush! :)

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    1. I agree, I think if all companies stopped using parabens (and they came up with another way of preserving cosmetics and giving them a decent shelf life) it would be great. But at the moment I wont be going out of the way to avoid them or giving up products I love x

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  6. great post!!i'm biologist and while it is true that we are in contact with way to many toxins, harmful substances etc etc the only way to be free of all that would be to go to another planet and start all over. i'm very conscious about my skin mostly because i still suffer from acne and i want to prevent aging and dark spots and scars. so i'm trying to choose the healthiest choice possible when it comes to food and cosmetics. while i look up at the ingridients, i'm not all crazy about it to the point of not using any more my favourite things if the work for me.

    so yeah!
    Bea =)
    dailylivingingeneva.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for your comment Beatriz I never thought of it that way before but it makes perfect sense, there really is no avoiding these sorts of chemicals. I agree about checking the label of foods and cosmetics, it never hurts to know what's in them especially if you have a bad reaction you'll have more of an idea of what caused it. Like you say, I think its more about finding products that work for you rather than dismiss all products that contain a certain ingredient x

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  7. Thank you for this post. I share the same feelings about this as you. If it's paraben-free great, but I won't go out of my way to find it. I completely agree that it is unproven whether or no it's safe, and until now, women have been using paraben in the products for years and been fine.

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    1. That's so true, people all over the world have been using parabens for years and it's been fine. I think a lot of it might be organic companies trying to push their own products by saying that by not containing these 'harmful' ingredients that they're better than their competitors. But without solid evidence I won't be worrying about it x

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  8. I think if there is a question, more research needs to be done. I personally will be buying paraben-free face and body products in the future (especially since I still haven't found any "holy grail" products along those lines), but I'm not going to be picky about eye shadows or anything. But that's my choice and I think everybody has their own right to choose that (I definitely don't judge! haha). I'm interested to hear your opinion on sulfates in beauty products.

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  9. I feel the same way. Sure, I wish everything was paraben free but that's just not realistic.

    Following you via Monday blog hop :)
    http://www.soulystones.blogspot.com

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  10. Hi! Great blog, Im a new follower and look foreword to reading more posts <3

    Im a self-taught makeup artist and upcoming YouTuber with a beauty blog. I feature product reviews, looks I have created and how to and picture tutorials etc.
    Would love for you to check it out and even follow if you like it?

    Sanna's beauty blog
    Connect with me on facebook

    xxx
    Sanna

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  11. Stacey, this is a controversy about makeup ingredients that I had never heard of. Thank you for doing the research and sharing it with us. I am going to go read some labels next time I am buying makeup.

    Thanks so much for linking on my blog hop, Wonderful Wednesday, today on Ducks 'n a Row. I hope you will come back again and again. :) New follower here.
    Sinea
    http://www.ducksnarow.com

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  12. Hi! Just stopping by from the FTF blog hop! New follower on your lovely blog, would love to have you stop by my blog sometime and follow back if you like.

    xoxo,
    Melissa @ thisgirlslifeblog.com

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  13. Do you mind if I ask you where you did your research? I can give you some more information on why Parabens and Parafins are bad and what they actually are. However, I would like to know if you would be interested in doing a review of Perfectly Posh. I would like to talk to you more about this I will shot you an email. I found your blog on the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop. I am now following and look forward to reading your beauty tips.
    Love
    Patricia
    www.thettdiaries.com

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  14. I try to avoid things like parabens in general. Can't hurt.
    Jamie
    http://chatterblossom.blogspot.com/

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  15. Generally, we should stop using everything because there are no products which are a blessing in 100% percent

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  16. I honestly try to avoid them whenever I can but it can be tough to stay away from everything that everyone thinks is bad for you.

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