Parabens || #FormulaFriday


Hello everyone!


I know I didn’t post my #FormulaFriday last week, but now I’ll try and make it up to you! This week’s post is about a ‘bad’ ingredient. Until now, we’ve talked about all the nice and peachy ingredients you’d want to have in your skincare, but let’s see what parabens are about!

What is it?

Parabens are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products. Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, in order to protect both the products and consumers.

Product ingredient labels typically list more than one paraben in a product, and parabens are often used in combination with other types of preservatives to better protect against a broad range of microorganisms.

They are usually found in products such as shampoos, mascara, foundations and body lotions.

Some other labels

The most common parabens found in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, but there are also isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and other ingredients ending in –paraben.

What they do?

Parabens are most common in personal care products that contain significant amounts of water such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions and facial and shower cleansers and scrubs, because they discourage the growth of microbes. While some recommend concentration limits for single (up to 0.4%) and total paraben concentrations (up to 0.8%) in a single product, these recommendations do not account for exposure to parabens from several products by a single individual.
Any product that contains water is susceptible to being spoiled by the growth of fungi or bacteria, which could cause problems such as mold, discoloration, malodor or breakdown of the product.
Parabens are not water soluble and thy can penetrate the skin. As a result, repeated application of a product or multiple products containing parabens could mean almost continuous exposure.

Are parabens harmful?

As we learned already, parabens can actually penetrate the skin. That means they can actually enter our body.
However, parabens have been safely used for almost 100 years as preservatives in the food, drug and personal care and cosmetic industries. They are derived from para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA) that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, cherries, carrots, blueberries, and onions.  PHBA is also naturally formed in our bodies by the breakdown of some amino acids.  The parabens used in cosmetics are identical to those found in nature and our bodies quickly change them into natural PHBA and eliminate them.
Even though some scientific research says that parabens aren’t harmful at all, some links have been found between parabens and endocrine disruption, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity
Do parabens cause breast cancer? We don’t know yet, but some researchers feel there may be reason for concern. Parabens contains estroge, which is connected to breast cancer. However, the fact that parabens were found in tumors isn’t proof that they were actually the cause.

Alternative to parabens

It’s actually quite a challenge to formulate products without parabens’ preservative qualities.

Parabens are actually what replaced formaldehyde many decades ago as a preservative, which was much more harmful than parabens are.

Some of the natural ingredients that can replace parabens are oregano, thyme, rosemary, goldenseal root, grapefruit seed extract or lavender oil.

Another way to avoid parabens is to use oil-based organic products that don’t contain water (which calls for a preservative).

Organic acids have anti-microbial properties, but they are limited. They are only able to kill fungi, not bacteria.

Sodium benzoate is another alternative, but keep in mind that when used together with low concentrations of vitamin C, it forms benzene, a known carcinogen. So, obviously it’s not a better option than parabens! Also, not effective against bacteria. Yeast and fungi only.

Lots of essentials oils, such as clove, thyme, and tea tree, have great antimicrobioal properties. They can easily kill bacteria and fungi when used on their own. However, they work well only in certain types of formulas, and at high concentrations that can cause irritations.

Preservative-free? Well, if you’re willing to keep it in the fridge, and throw it out after 2 weeks to 1 month max, you’re good to go, for the most part. But you are very likely to throw out a lot of unused product. If you decide not to get rid of it, you risk getting a very bad rash, infection or worse.

Basically, there is not really one good enough alternative to parabens. It has to be a combination of several ingredients, but be very careful about which ingredients go together and which don’t.

My thoughts

To be completely honest, I’m not really entirely sure what I think about this. While I was researching this topic, I found so many conflicting data. I definitely don’t want to have too much parabens in my products, but it seems like it’s pretty much impossible to avoid.

I do love natural cosmetics, but that way I am bound to throw half-full container of product, which is such a waste of money!

I am happy that the cosmetic industry is trying to find alternatives, and I certainly hope they do find one soon. But if I can’t find a paraben-free product, or it’s way more expensive, I’ll stick to those that do contain them for now.



And that’s it for today’s post! Which ingredient would you like to see in some of the upcoming posts? Do you avoid parabens in your skincare?

See all of my previous #FormulaFriday posts.

Thank you for reading!

See you soon x

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