As a general rule, I used to avoid products with paraben without knowing exactly why. I started avoiding them when products showed up with the ‘no parabens’ on their labels. I figured if a product wants to point out that there aren’t any parabens, then parabens must be bad. After doing some research I realize it is a somewhat controversial ingredient because the studies done are inconclusive.
Why are parabens used in products
Products that have a high percentage of water or liquid which includes lotions and creams will grow mold without a preservative. Parabens are manufactured preservatives and extend the shelf life from many months to years. This explains why the lotion you bought two years ago seems just as new as when you first bought it. Paraben free products use an alternative and hopefully safer form of preservatives.
The argument against using parabens
The argument against using parabens is that some studies have shown that parabens were found in breast tumors of women. Parabens are also suspected to mimic estrogen in the body which can cause tumors to grow. No concrete link has been found to cancer, but where there is smoke there is fire. It is best to use a paraben-free product for some peace of mind.
The argument for not avoiding parabens
The reverse argument for using parabens is that while estrogen activity is present it is extremely weak compared to natural estrogens. The counter-argument also states that the presence of parabens in tumors does not mean that tumors are caused by parabens.
Apparently, benign substances such as water are also found in tumors. This argument, in my opinion, doesn’t give anyone any incentive for using parabens. I have yet to found any evidence that parabens are good for you, only that it might not bad for you. Most products have a paraben-free alternative that you can try.
Why you really should be paraben-free
Personally, I will continue to avoid parabens but that doesn’t mean I will never use a product with parabens. Sometimes I don’t have a choice. For example, parabens are used in some medications. In as much as I would like a paraben-free antibiotic, my primary concern is to get rid of my infection. Still, it doesn’t hurt to bring this up to the pharmacist to see if options are available.
The more products used with parabens the greater the exposure, and why take the chance if you don’t need to? Ideally, making your own products or buying products with no preservatives with a short shelf life is best. I don’t know about you, but that is mostly unrealistic for the average working family. Parabens are used in food, cosmetics, medications and are difficult to avoid completely. I consider skin products with the same care as food products because products can and do enter your body through the skin.
What to look for in labels
If you want to avoid parabens look for ingredients that do not end with the word paraben, such as methylparaben. Parabens also goes by pseudonyms including “ethyl”, “butyl”, “methyl” and “propyl“. Even if the ingredient doesn’t end with the word paraben it could be if it starts with any of the pseudonyms.