If you keep up with the beauty community, you’ve probably heard the term ‘parabens’ thrown around as something you should avoid at all costs. Most of us know that parabens are harmful, but we don’t know what they are or why we should avoid them. Here’s everything you need to know about these sneaky little preservatives.
What are parabens?
Parabens are preservatives that have been used in makeup, skincare, and pharmaceutical products for decades, starting in the 1950s. They are designed to give these products a much longer shelf life, which is why companies started using them in the first place. Specifically, they are designed to prevent bacteria and mold from growing within the products. Although that sounds like a good thing, there are actually many potentially harmful side effects of parabens that scientists didn’t take into account when they first started using them. While parabens were thought to be safe for years, more recent studies have found that they are really something to stay away from.
Why are they harmful?
There are a few reasons why parabens are thought to be harmful. The biggest reason is that their use has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems because of the way they affect hormonal functioning. Parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, which can drastically disrupt your natural hormonal processes. They can also stay in the skin tissue for years, which could potentially cause abnormal cell growth. While it hasn’t been proved that parabens are the exact cause of this cancer, the link is impossible to deny. While there haven’t been studies specifically examining how parabens affect skin health, it’s best not to take the chance, particularly if you experience hormonal acne. Finally, parabens can also be harmful to the environment, because parabens washed away in our sewage can affect marine animals.
What products contain them?
There are many popular products that contain parabens, but luckily many brands are starting to move away from using them in their products. There are now other preservatives out there that are much safer, so there is just no reason to use parabens anymore. When you go to the store or shop online now, you will likely see products that say ‘paraben-free’. While this is a good indicator they are safe to use, you should still check the ingredients list. Anything with ‘paraben’ in the name is something to watch out for. Methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben are the most commonly used parabens.
Knowing exactly what parabens are will help you make smarter decisions about the beauty and wellness products you want to use. While there’s still always more research to be done regarding the effect of parabens on the body, there’s enough risk that it is best to just stay away from them altogether. With so many brands now focusing on healthy, natural skincare and makeup options, you will have plenty of options to choose from that you can really trust to keep your skin looking great without the risk.