Monday, 1 February 2016

Say no to nasties: Parabens

healthy, organics, ethical
How do you feel about the chemicals in your products?
Image courtesy of Sira Aeamwong at

This is the second in my series that looks into common ingredients in everyday toiletries and cosmetics.  I want to learn more about the risks I might be taking by regularly putting these additives on my face and body. I'll also showcase alternative brands that have moved away from using these synthetics - to provide a more natural and potentially healthier choice. This time I'm looking at parabens. 

To learn more about Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS), another common additive, click here.

What are parabens?

Parabens are basically chemicals that have preservative qualities. They have been a common additive in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products since the 1950s to help prevent bacteria growth. Using parabens dramatically extends the shelf life of many beauty and health items because it stops them going mouldy. Products can last longer on shop shelves - and in your home - particularly the moist, warm environment of a bathroom, where many such items are kept. Parabens are ubiquitous - find them in toothpaste, sunscreens, cleansers, hair products, moisturisers and cosmetics like mascara and foundations. If you look at an ingredients list you might see them listed as butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben or isobutylparaben. 

Should I be worried?

There is an alleged link between parabens and the development of certain cancers. This is mainly drawn from the 1990's classification of parabens as 'xenoestrogens' - agents that mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen in the body (although strictly speaking oestrogen is not a single hormone but a family of similar chemicals). The disruption of oestrogen and an excess of it is linked to breast cancer. In 2004, a British study also found parabens present in malignant breast tutors. While the study was criticised for not comparing paraben levels in normal tissue, and the study alone does not doesn’t prove that parabens caused the cancer, the results have still flagged up a potential link. 

Clearly, more research is needed to establish if parabens post a risk to our health. However, the potential risk is enough for many countries to set limits on the levels of paraben allowed in individual products. It's also worth bearing in mind that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to parabens might also present a problem, and that if parabens can be stored in the body, over time they could have a cumulative effect. 

What can I do to be safe?

For many, the query over both immediate and cumulative health risks connected to the use of parabens is enough to make them want to limit their exposure to this chemical - particularly if they feel they have an inherited higher risk of developing cancer. You could consider switching first to a paraben-free body lotion, since this is a product that covers a large area of skin - and remains there until it is absorbed. Oil-based products that don’t contain water, and therefore don't need a preservative, are also a good option.
healthy, organics, ethical
Soak your worries away - without creating any more!

Ultimately if you want to be completely safe - and perhaps wonder why we need a load of potentially-damaging chemicals added to products just to make it easier to market and sell them in the first place - you can opt to use paraben-free brands. Just remember, without that preservative you will need to store them correctly and heed use-by dates. Products in darker containers and with pump dispensers also keep the air and light away from these more natural formulations.

One product 100 per cent free from parabens (and SLS, phylates, GMOs, synthetic colours and animal ingredients since we're checking), is Spa Magik Organiks Deep Sleep Lavender Bath Salts. After all, if you're going to soak your body in something for a long, relaxing time - you want to know it's safe!!! In fact, all the bath and body products in the range blend pure essential oils, therapeutic plants and sea water to create soaks, a serum and a body better to combat tiredness, dry skin and aches and pains. Who wouldn't opt for that!


  1. What is paraben? As someone who buys skincare products, it's an ingredient you should be concerned about. You found this article somehow, so you probably already know that cosmetics companies put some nasty chemicals in their skin creams. But you may be wondering, as a consumer, if you should go out of your way to buy paraben free products?

  2. Well said, life is the most beautiful thing that any human being would like to concentrate on. But it is hard but to true to belive that there is not elixir of immortality to hack one's life existance on this planet.

  3. Developing mindfulness and a yearning to tend to additional for what we put on our skin and in our bodies implies more individuals need to find out about paraben free skincare items.

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