What Are Parabens and Why Are They Bad?

No matter whether you are into Vegan cosmetics, organic, or just make up that is gentle enough for your sensitive skin, there is one common term that comes up when you are shopping around – paraben-free.

However, just what are parabens and why does everyone seem to have it out for them?

Parabens are, in the simplest terms, preservatives. They are there so that mold, fungus, and bacteria don’t start to grow in your lotions or on your eyeliner after being exposed to your skin or by just sitting in the warm and moist temperatures in your bathroom. That in itself is why people didn’t seem to mind parabens way back when. For those that don’t buy into the controversy, it is why they continue to support paraben products today. Yet, with all these paraben-free products out there, there must be something wrong with them, right?

Why are Parabens Bad?

The controversy around parabens didn’t start until 2004 when a study was published about parabens and the concentrations of them found within human breast tumors. You see, there has always been a suspected link between increased estrogen exposure and breast cancer and because parabens, once exposed to the body, have a weak ability to mimic estrogen, they were suspected to be related to the rising rate of breast cancer.

The fact that in the study lead researcher Phillippa Darbre found parabens in 18 out of 20 samples of breast cancer tumors is pretty damning evidence. However, there are some that argue against the bad reputation of parabens and the media frenzy around them.

People who still support parabens as a preservative make some valid points, many of them found in this Cosmetics Cop article about parabens. Supporters like the author of the article state that parabens and their estrogenic effect are much weaker than other phytoestrogens that we consume every day. They are likely right on that point, but they also go on to say that the lead author herself had made no connection to them causing breast cancer.

In its simplest terms, the fact that parabens were found in 18 out or 20 tumor samples merely means that those women had worn makeup at some point. However, many people support that parabens, if ingested through makeup, are metabolized and then excreted from the body, but…If they were in breast tumor samples, then that is clearly not the case, right?

Yet, parabens have been used in cosmetics for some 70 years before the study was published, so saying that they are responsible for the recent rise in breast cancer is obviously false. They may contribute, but they are definitely not solely responsible.

Are Parabens Dangerous?

As to whether parabens are dangerous or not is not quite as simple as you think it would be. Even the FDA hasn’t answered it properly yet. However, we aren’t here to weigh in on one side or the other in this debate. We are here to give you information so that you can make a choice that suits your lifestyle.

If you believe parabens are an excellent preservative, then continue using them.

If you believe parabens are truly linked to breast cancer, then stop using them.

It is one of those decisions that you have to make for yourself since there is not enough evidence either way for a regulatory committee to completely clear the name of parabens or completely ban them from use.

Our cosmetic reviews at Sensitive Skin Makeup always identify parabens if they are present so that you can decide if that product is right for you or not. As women can have some many different sensitivities and health concerns, we will always identify them for you even if they aren’t a trigger for your particular skin sensitivity or health concern.

What to Watch Out For?

No matter whether you think parabens are bad or just okay, you should still know what to look out for. Identifying parabens on an ingredient label is actually super easy. You see, paraben is used much like a suffix, so just look for it at the end of the word.

Common parabens include:

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben

So if you have decided that you don’t want to risk parabens in your cosmetics just in case, look out for those ingredients in your makeup from now on.