Paraben free or not?
You may have noticed that ‘paraben free’ labels are now springing up on many hair and beauty products but what does this actually mean?
Well parabens are used to prevent the growth of yeasts, moulds and bacteria in cosmetic products and are common in deodorants, antiperspirants as well as products that have a high water content such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, cleansers and scrubs. So almost everything!
The most commonly used are butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. However, in response to consumer concerns many brands have started to make (and advertise) products that are paraben-free.
So what’s the problem?
In the 90’s, parabens were deemed xenoestrogens – agents that mimic estrogen in the body - and ‘estrogen disruption’ has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. Also in 2004 parabens were discovered in malignant breast tumours and as a result some experts are recommending limits on levels used in cosmetic products. Others worry that if parabens can be stored in the body, they could have a cumulative effect in the future.
On the other side, critics state that the mere presence of parabens in tumours does not prove that they cause the cancer and there is currently no scientific link between parabens and cancer as the World Health Organization considers the chemicals safe, albeit at low levels.
There’s reason to be mindful, but no reason to have an all-consuming paraben panic. When looking at labels, remember if the preservatives are one of the last four ingredients this indicates that they are present, although in very small amounts
However, given that it is now super easy to find products that are free from parabens and natural deodorants (that actually work!), why cover our bodies in chemicals when we don’t have to?!