What are Parabens and why are they bad for you?


No matter the skincare product,  be it a lotion, exfoliator, cleanser, toner, foundation, or mascara, devoid of preservatives these daily items would become loaded with bacteria, fungus, and mold, making them considerably harmful for regular use. Having said that, preservatives have had their share of woes over the years. These days Parabens are the center of all discussions in this regard particularly in the beauty and wellness industry.

What are Parabens?

Parabens are a group of chemical preservatives which are often found in everyday products. and have been used ever since the 1950s. Their primary role is to prevent bacterial, fungal and mold growth in the products in which they are present. Their considerable prevalence in beauty products is because they are relatively inexpensive and quite effective as a preservative.

Evaluating the Paraben Risk

One Danish study recently found that parabens can be detected in the blood and urine of young male volunteers a few hours after the application of paraben laden lotions to the skin. The authors of the study concluded as parabens could be absorbed, metabolized and excreted , they “could potentially contribute to adverse health effects.”

Parabens have also been found to be skin irritants for adults, children and infants with sensitive skin.  Common skin problems associated with parabens include rosacea, dermatitis, among a host of other allergic problems.

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Parabens and Hormones

Parabens are phytoestrogens, in that they produce a weak estrogenic effect on the body. This has the potential to disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in the body and can possibly be a concern for many women as estrogen is said to play a part in the formation of breast cancer. Further, in a 2002 study by Dr. S. Oishi, it was found that buylparaben had a negative effect on a male rat’s testosterone levels.

Parabens and Cancer

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, conducted by English biologist Dr. Darbre, detected parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from breast tumour biopsies. Although the study did not prove that parabens cause breast cancer, but it did point to a disturbing link between the two.

Dr. Darbre says ,”We’ve known for more than 25 years that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression; it is the reason tamoxifen [commonly prescribed to women with breast cancer] is used to disrupt estrogen receptors, So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic estrogen might be having an impact.”

Even though it has yet not been conclusively proven that parabens cause cancer we recommend staying safe than being sorry later. Therefore, it is better in our view to, wherever possible, avoid products that contain parabens. As an alternative look for products which use ingredients such as ethylhexylglycerin (which is plant-derived) or phenoxyethanol, another alternative to parabens, a naturally derived ether alcohol; Or better still look for products which are completely preservative and chemical free.

Want to learn how to create a unique skincare regimen tailored to the needs of your skin?
Take this skin type quiz and start exploring.

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