Ever take a moment to read the labels on the most popular items in your makeup bag? Before you break the seal next time, flip the box over and you’ll most likely see a host of ingredients that end with the word “Paraben”. There’s a group of them including methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, or benzylparaben. However on the very next product on the shelf, you read on the front, ‘paraben-free’. What gives? Why do some products have several parabens listed in their ingredients and others are advertising ‘paraben free’?
Recently, the preservative, that keeps our products from growing mold and bacteria, has been linked to claims of breast cancer. Are the claims true? Should you dump your makeup bag that’s full of products with parabens in them? The short answer is no. There is not enough scientific evidence to conclude parabens cause breast cancer in humans. Well, did someone simply make the association between breast cancer and parabens up? No, multiple studies have found that parabens exhibit a weak estrogen activity and only one study in 2004 found that parabens induce the growth of the MCF-7 human breast cancer cells in vitro (i.e in that little petri dish you used to watch bacteria grow in school). One study is certainly not enough scientific evidence to claim that parabens cause breast cancer. But should you buy paraben-free products anyway? Sure, if you want to; I do. I simply prefer to use products with a preservative that may be considered a ‘gentle’ preservative. There’s no natural perservative for water-based products so we’re all stuck with a synthetic preservative.
However, we can choose a milder preservative. More and more, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of what they put on their skin and in their bodies. And if there is a better alternative, manufacturers will make it, if your consumer dollars demand it. And right now, the informed consumer dollars are demanding ‘paraben-free’ products simply because they are the milder alternative for stopping bacteria growth in products; not because they cause breast cancer.
meet Carmen. she’s a mathematician turned makeup artist that loves to create and will still solve the occasional quadratic equation. she prefers florals as the top notes of her parfum and vintage thrift finds over modern day labels. her work has been featured on essence.com, stylemepretty.com, munaluchibridal.com, thebridescafe.com, TLC’s “Say Yes To The Dress”, Style Network’s “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?”, and in Atlanta’s Wedding Magazine, Pregnancy Magazine, and Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine. her love over logic is sweet potato pie and a cup of coffee for breakfast.