I haven’t shared a post in my ingredients to avoid series for a little while, so I’m back to talk all things parabens! In this post I’ll be covering what they are, why I try to avoid them, how to spot them and more. I’d love to hear your suggestions for great brands that are paraben free too!
First things first, what are parabens?
Parabens are the most widely used preservative in skincare and makeup, and have been in regular use since the 1950s as they are both cheap and effective at preventing bacteria and fungus growth. Obviously this is a good thing, as no one wants nasty bacteria popping up in their skincare products!
So, why are they a problem?
The downside however is that in the 1990s parabens were found to be xenoestrogens, or items that mimic estrogens, which can cause estrogen disruption and this has been linked to reproductive issues and potentially breast cancer. The concern is that products containing parabens are often spread over much of our bodies and are designed to be absorbed into our skin, and the parabens could be being stored in our bodies for long periods of time. Given parabens are applied directly to the skin they skip the body’s metabolic process and therefore enter our blood stream and organs still intact.
At the moment there are only limited studies into the long term impacts of parabens so it is hard to be definitive about the extent of the problems. The EU has restricted the concentration of parabens allowed in cosmetics and experts in many countries are recommending reducing limiting exposure to parabens where possible.
How to spot parabens?
Brands that don’t use parabens are usually pretty upfront about this fact which does make it easier to spot – look out for the big ‘paraben free’ text! Otherwise, the most common parabens in cosmetics to keep an eye out for are methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben.
What are the alternatives?
The best way to reduce your exposure to parabens is to ensure things like your body moisturiser is paraben free, as it is used over your entire body. Oil based products that come in a dark bottle, usually with a pump top, are your best bet as they are least likely to require a preservative to be added.
There are a number of paraben free skincare brands these days which are thankfully easy to find in places like Priceline and the chemist. My personal go-to brand is Sukin for pretty much all my skincare at the moment but there are other paraben free options including Aveda, Burts Bees and Moogoo.