Parabens; The most widely used preservatives in personal care products
Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products due to their ability to stop mold, fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your creams and makeup, to protect you and maintain product integrity.
They may be listed as ethylparaben, benzyl-paraben, butylparaben, heptylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben or methylparaben and are often used in combination. While parabens can be sourced from various berries and provide antimicrobial properties, most products contain synthetically sourced parabens. Their low cost makes them the preservative of choice amongst most mainstream personal care product manufacturers.
Parabens are highly controversial ingredients
Many sources agree that parabens may cause skin toxicity resulting in skin (and eye) irritation, allergic reactions and rashes and even trigger dermatitis and rosacea. Many others indicate that parabens are absorbed via the skin, blood and digestive systems and disrupt the body’s hormone systems, earning them the label endocrine disruptors. They are linked with breast and other cancers with studies finding parabens in most urine samples and breast cancer tumors, likely due to their ability to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Women and young children are particularly inclined to have issues resulting from parabens such as allergies (immunotoxicity) and hormone disruption, with an increase in early puberty in girls and reproductive abnormalities in boys.
In contrast, proponents believe parabens are non-irritating and non-sensitizing for most people, citing studies that indicate small amounts are practically harmless, non-toxic, rapidly metabolized and excreted. These advocates assert that suspicions about parabens are unsubstantiated, that the 2004 study that linked them with breast cancer was misunderstood and that the American Cancer Society, FDA, Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, EU, Health Canada and The Personal Care Products Council (US) deem parabens to be safe.
About Utyl Paraben and Propyl Paraben
Butyl paraben and propyl paraben are on the International Chemical Secretariat’s “Substitute It Now”; list, which identifies substances of very high concern in the European Union’s REACH program. Plus, Denmark has banned propyl and butyl parabens, iso forms and salts in children’s products.
While the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) deems parabens safe as used in cosmetics yet recommends limits of parabens concentration in individual products.
Other sources state that methylparaben can increase UV damage and disrupt cell growth rate and that propyl and butyl parabens may reduce sperm production and testosterone levels. They also mention that maternal exposure to butylparaben during gestation and lactation alters reproductive organ development and sperm production and that isobutylparaben during gestation can lead to anxiety and behavioral changes in offspring.
Did you know? The average woman uses 12 personal care products per day.
Many panels or review boards do not take into account the fact that most people use multiple personal care products and foods that contain them. It is the amount of exposure to parabens that is linked with concern. So, while shampoos, conditioners, cleansers, shave gels, scrubs and toothpastes are quickly washed off, deodorants, toners, lotions, serums, moisturizers and makeup stay on the skin longer increasing the chance of migration into the bloodstream.
Health advocates advise replacing parabens with safe alternatives such as those used by Pevonia.
Pevonia uses gentle and effective preservatives such as naturally sourced phenoxyethanol from sugar (not to be confused with raw, synthetic phenoxyethanol believed to be an eye and skin irritant), potassium sorbate from berries and coconut-derived capryl glycol and caprylhydroxamic acid. Using purified water that is filtered, sterilized and deionized plus green manufacturing technologies ensures Pevonia products a three-year shelf-life unopened and one year after opening, with no risk of contamination by bacteria or fungus.
Certainly, personal care products need to be preserved, otherwise people will be exposed to harmful bacteria and mold. Yet parabens and some other preservatives used to counteract this are also believed to release small amounts of formaldehyde and reach a threshold level over many years and trigger potential long-term health problems including the development of cancer. While alternative preservatives may be more expensive, personal health is worth it! So the question is... what price am I willing to pay for beauty?