Parabens have become a new dirty word in the business of beauty. We have all seen the cautionary articles warning us about the “P” word as a dangerous additive that our previously beloved beauty products contain in order to maintain their longevity, and justify their value.
The primary scare is that parabens used in popular over the counter cosmetic products, (ranging from those carried in the most elite boutiques to the drug stores and supermarkets), have been said to contribute to breast cancer. This is a topic of a hot debate on both the market and manufacturing end, as well as at the tables of ladies at lunch.
Studies have shown that parabens can cause endocrine disruption, which may lead to the perception of increased levels of estrogen, which have been indicated in patients with breast cancer. However, studies show that these disruptions occur due to parabens mimicking estrogenic activity, as opposed to actually increasing the amount of estrogen. It is important to note that increase in these cells is not the same as cell mutation, which can lead to developing cancer cells. In addition, varying levels of hormones in people, including estrogen, is mostly based on genetic makeup, and that increased levels of any hormone result in various aesthetic diversities that are not necessarily dangerous to one’s health.
However, even if a product is made up of organic materials, it may still need some forms of parabens to extend its shelf life. Part of the preservation process of a product calls for dehydration. The presence of water-based moisture in a product creates an environment for oxidation, which can easily serve as a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria. Although the FDA has determined that parabens are safe in cosmetic products, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, (an industry-sponsored organization which reviews cosmetic ingredient safety) noted that parabens are safe as long as they don’t make up more than 25% of the product’s content. Most products, however, only have parabens in levels ranging from 0.01% to 0.3%.
Some products end uses call for them to be more water based in order to fulfill their role as a beauty tool, therefore some mild preservatives (albeit in minimal quantities) are added to the product, such as grapefruit seed extract, or blueberry extract. These can be used as derivatives for mild forms of parabens, and allow the products to remain perfectly suitable for meeting a plethora of skin and hair care needs, all the while maintaining their natural origin.
Fortunately, due to the free market economy, and as smart, independent consumers, we have many options! If we decide that no chance is too small to take when it comes to the absorption of potentially harmful chemicals through our biggest organ (our skin) there are plenty of natural and organic beauty products available to us. Darling will be reviewing many healthy skin products in the near future, so stay tuned!
Photo Credit: ivillage.com