Parabens can help extend your makeup shelf life, but at what cost? Is paraben-free makeup the answer?
In this article:
- What Are Parabens?
- How Do Parabens Affect People?
- What Does Paraben-Free Makeup Mean?
- When Did Paraben-Free Makeup Become the Norm?
- Why Should You Use Paraben-Free Makeup?
- Who Should Use Paraben-Free Makeup?
All About Parabens and Paraben-Free Makeup
What Are Parabens?
The FDA identifies parabens as a family of chemicals whose primary use are preservatives in cosmetics. They help prevent mold and bacteria from growing in the product, thereby protecting both product and consumer.
Here are the types of parabens:
They are the most common parabens available in cosmetic products. Often they are used in combination to be more effective in fighting harmful microorganisms.
Parabens are common not only in makeup but also a range of other skincare and personal care products. They are present in shaving products, hair products, sunscreens, moisturizers, deodorants, and more.
Studies also show that parabens are present in up to 90% of foods, from dairy products, beverages, grains, meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables. Parabens in food are harder to find though, as they are usually E214, E216, and other chemical “E” ingredients.
One good way of finding out if a product has parabens is to check the label. This is because the presence of parabens is required to be listed by law.
How Do Parabens Affect People?
The premise of parabens seems harmless, as they help protect products from bacteria and dangerous microorganisms. But concerns have been raised in studies pointing to correlations between parabens and breast cancer.
While small amounts of parabens aren’t harmful, cumulative exposure to them over time may pose a danger. Parabens are known to be xenoestrogens, which mimic the hormone estrogen.
As parabens bind to estrogen receptors in cells, they disrupt hormone function. Estrogen disruption has been linked to reproductive issues and breast tumors, as parabens have been extracted from malignant breast tumor tissue.
Several organizations from Canada to Europe list parabens as dangerous substances on the basis of their interference with hormone function. While the FDA still has no information whether parabens have a direct link to dangerous health issues, many still prefer to play it safe and stick to paraben-free products.
What Does Paraben-Free Makeup Mean?
Paraben-free makeup usually has a shorter shelf life. It may also use alternative ingredients as preservatives.
Some brands that carry paraben-free cosmetics are Burt’s Bees, Aveda, Origins, Korres, and Pangea Organics. Another alternative is to look out for organic and oil-based products that don’t include water, as water calls for preservatives.
Many worry about paraben-free makeup lacking in quality compared to makeup with parabens. But since paraben-free formulations are constantly being tested, many products are high quality.
Many are also concerned about the expensive price tags that paraben-free makeup brands carry. But since more brands are jumping onto the bandwagon away from Parabenville, there are now even affordable drugstore alternatives.
Check labels for parabens and avoid buying products just because the label says it’s natural or organic. To avoid products developing bacteria or mold, be sure to use them only until the expiry date.
When Did Paraben-Free Makeup Become the Norm?
Parabens started being the cause of concern in the 1990s when they were first seen to be disruptive to hormone function. Since then, several cosmetic companies have tried keeping up with public demand for paraben-free makeup.
Cosmetic companies have gone on record to say that they are looking for paraben replacements in their products. Despite lacking concrete evidence that parabens do pose serious, long-term health risks, paraben-free makeup and cosmetics are now widely available on the market.
Parabens are a cheap and effective preservative, which is why many companies find it difficult to phase them out. Some alternatives have been herbs such as thyme, oregano, rosemary, lavender oil, or grapefruit seed extract.
Why Should You Use Paraben-Free Makeup?
You don’t have to wait for direct links of parabens to health problems to start avoiding them. The entire point of using parabens in products is for preservation. Many people abuse this just to extend product use, which in itself can be risky.
Expiration dates are present on products for a reason, so we must choose the freshness and quality of a product over how long we can conveniently store it. Unless it’s for fermenting goods, bacteria have no place on your body or in it.
Who Should Use Paraben-Free Makeup?
The only difference between paraben-free makeup and makeup with parabens is that the latter has chemical and synthetic preservatives. Paraben-free makeup is a great alternative for anyone looking for safer products.
People with a history of cancer, especially breast cancer, usually opt for paraben-free makeup, as well as paraben-free products in general. Sure, parabens in a single product may be well within safety limits, but keep in mind that many people use more than one skincare product and/or cosmetic product on a daily basis.
Paraben-free makeup products also use natural alternatives to preserve their formulas. Natural ingredients often contain more vitamins and antioxidants, which can be better for your health over time.
Paraben-free makeup and products made with natural ingredients may also be safer for those with sensitive skin. Many people are allergic to chemical preservatives and may be more welcoming to products that have gentler and more natural formulas.
But you don’t need to have allergies, sensitive skin, or a genetic history of breast cancer to switch to paraben-free makeup and products. Switching to more environmentally-friendly products that contain no controversial ingredients is a good reason in itself.
The science may not completely back it up, but parabens seem like a class of ingredients we should try avoiding as much as possible. With more products switching over to natural ingredients, it makes no sense to stay with an ingredient that’s been stirring the cancer link pot since the ’90s.
Investing in makeup and skincare products made from natural and organic ingredients like purple tea can be a great gateway into a more health-conscious skincare regime. But always consult with your dermatologist and perform skin patch tests before completely transitioning to a new skincare routine.
Do you use paraben-free makeup? What are your favorite paraben-free makeup brands? Share them with us in the comments section below!