The Truth About Parabens

For the next 4 weeks, we are launching a series of blogs on ingredients. We’ve talked a lot about fulvic acid, but there are many ingredients in our products and all skincare products. We want you to be able to have all the information to make the best choice for your skincare needs.

 We live in a world in which brand and ingredient transparency is becoming the trend. We’re constantly reminded of which ingredients are good for us and which are bad for us. One of the biggest names on the no-no list is parabens. For the last 10 years, skincare and beauty brands are quick to slap a “no parabens” label on packaging, but do you know what parabens actually are and how they are bad for you?

 In the skincare and beauty community, we have all accepted that parabens are bad without knowing much about them. Don’t worry, we did a little leg work to find out what parabens actually are and why boycotting them is the best for us.

 What are parabens?

Simply put, parabens are synthetic preservatives. In fact, since it’s commercialization in the 50s, its been one of the most widely used preservatives in personal care products. It’s purpose is to stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your skincare and beauty products. They can be found under these names: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. If you read the ingredient label of your personal care products (lotion, shampoo, mascara, etc.), we bet you will find them listed on most of the labels. The reason why they are widely used is because they are a cheap and effective way to preserve your products. Parabens largely replaced formaldehyde many decades ago as a preservative.

 Parabens and health issues

In 2004, Philippa Darbre, a senior lecturer in oncology and researcher in biomolecular sciences at the University of Reading, in England conducted a study that detected parabens in 19 of 20 samples of tissue from breast tumor biopsies. Her small study does not prove parabens cause cancer, only that they were easily detected among cancerous cells. But it is important to note because the parabens detected in the cancer cells were intact parabens which means that it was unaltered by the body. However, at this time, there’s still not enough evidence to conclude that parabens and breast cancer are linked.

 Even though the research is inconclusive and individual products may have approved and safe amounts of parabens (by the FDA), it’s still good to be mindful. Some health advocates are still concerned that a cumulative exposure to parabens over time could contribute to a wide range of other health issues, even if its not cancer. It is said that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function which can lead to breast cancer and / or reproductive issues.

 What now?

As a consumer, how should you handle the paraben drama even though the research is inconclusive? The best way is to know your labels. Read the ingredient list prior to making a purchase and shop paraben-free products to error on the side of caution. Your skin absorbs a lot of what it comes into contact with and it will be taken into your system so it's best to know what you're putting into your body. 

 Many personal care / beauty companies (like Molecule 32) have found alternatives to parabens to prevent bacteria growth in your products. Some companies have created products with shorter shelf life or products that need refrigeration. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make as a consumer. To shop for Molecule 32’s paraben-free products, click here. Stay tuned for next week when we discuss phthalate.