PARABENS: what's the real truth?

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Over the years, parabens have gained a bit of a bad rep. Studies say one thing, newspapers say another. So, what's the real truth about the parabens in our beauty products? Let us explain it all...



What are parabens?

Parabens are a class of substances widely used as preservatives in cosmetics, foods, pharmaceuticals and other household products. They keep products free from bacteria, moulds and fungi that would otherwise spoil the product and could cause real harm to the user. The family of parabens, which are found naturally in plants and animals as well as being man-made, are approved for use as preservatives in the European Cosmetics Directive. They are among the most widely used of preservatives, having been in use for more than fifty years with an excellent safety record.

So, why do they get such bad press?

Sadly there is a lot of misinformation about parabens, including allegations that they are linked to cancer. They repeat a discredited notion concerning parabens, underarm cosmetics and links to breast cancer. In fact, they are not a cause of cancer of any kind. Parabens are non-toxic to human cells. This is because our own skin cells rapidly and easily break parabens down into harmless smaller pieces. This means they are not able to cause harm and do not lead to skin sensitisation. It also means they won't persist in the environment or harm wildlife in any way. None of the extensive research carried out on the parabens has indicated a potential risk of harm to human health and parabens remain amongst the safest of preservatives in today's cosmetic products. The European Commission's own committee of independent experts, the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS), has issued an official statement on parabens' safety. In it, they confirm that there is no evidence of any risk of breast cancer cause d by the use of underarm cosmetics, including those that contain parabens. It's also worth noting that over 90 per cent of underarm cosmetics (antiperspirants and deodorants) don't need preservatives, parabens or otherwise, owing to their formulation and the way they are packaged.

At MyShowcase we have a number of brands that boast paraben-free products if it is an ingredient you are medically concious of. Shop from Antonia Burrell, Wild About Beauty, AmeliorateBalance Me, Orba, and Elizabeth's Daughter.

Where can I read more?

The best place to read up on parabens is The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association's website. You can also read the SCCS opinion on parabens safety in their website archive.