Paraben-Free Lip Balm
If you’re a beauty and cosmetic product fanatic like I am, you’ve surely run into at least a few products that boast a “paraben-free” status — the ones that don’t (otherwise known as the majority of cosmetics on the market), generally do include parabens in their ingredient list.
So, what exactly are parabens, and should it matter to you whether they’re in your cosmetics, or elsewhere? Here’s the run down:
What’s Behind Your Shampoo Label?
Parabens are synthetic preservatives, made from methyl, propyl, butyl or ethyl that are commonly used to increase shelf life and kill bacteria in cosmetic products like shampoos, conditioners, skin creams and deodorant. Lab experiments have shown that parabens mimic the hormone estrogen in acting as endocrine disruptors. This can cause allergic reactions or hypersensitivity of the skin, but such a reaction is generally rare. Scant reports of cancerous tumors containing parabens have also made the news. The connection between parabens and cancer is still being debated, however.
Are You Eating Parabens too?
Parabens are also used in small quantities to preserve certain food products. Allergic reactions have been reported by cooks and food handlers who came in direct contact with the synthetic preservatives – usually by ingestion. This is the most dangerous method of contact for those who suffer from paraben allergy. If you suspect that this may be a problem for you, watch for paraben-containing oils, fats and glues – the most common food sources to contain synthetic preservatives.
The good news for those of us looking for alternatives is that paraben-free products are becoming more and more widespread in the natural cosmetic industry. The thought is that if all of the product’s ingredients come from natural sources, the chances of any form of toxicity are low. It is, therefore, imperative to check the labels closely to make sure of the ingredients you’re getting when you buy your beauty products.
When Parabens have Their Place
Still, it is important to remember that it is always possible for a natural ingredient to become contaminated as well, and for this reason, determining whether you should buy all-natural or submit to the synthetic should be something you should decide depending on the product’s intended use.
Vitamin creams, for instance, are always a better choice in its most natural form. However, if you’re planning to hold on to a particular cosmetic for some time (such as an expensive day cream), parabens can protect your skin from being exposed to potentially harmful bacteria that can develop in the product over time. Preservatives that are considered to be “natural” – such as plant extracts – are not as effective at this, and these products should be tossed after a few months of use.
To learn more about particular products that are made paraben-free, check out this guide from The Celebrity Cafe.
Adrienne writes for special-interest magazines and has worked on the production of women’s lifestyle channels at AOL as well as at E! Entertainment Television. She graduated from CUNY Baruch, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper The Ticker.