Simply Skin Blog

I hope you enjoy reading my Blog.  If you have any suggestions you would like me to write about, please send your ideas to me using the Contact tab.

Cosmetic Preservatives & the Paraben Debate

Posted on


You may have heard the rumours and fears concerning Parabens.  But do you know what Parabens are?  And do you know why so many people are choosing to use products which are Paraben-free? 

I hope that through this blog, I may help enlighten you as to the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of Parabens.  I do not intend to persuade you either way as to whether to use products which contain Parabens or products which are Paraben-free.  I merely wish to highlight some relevant facts so you are better equipped with knowledge to make your own decision.

So.  What are Parabens?

Parabens are a group of broad-spectrum preservatives used, primarily, in cosmetics containing water (aqua) due to their ability to prevent the harmful growth of micro-organisms such as mould and yeast.  They are derived from benzoic acid which is a chemical commonly found in plants and are, therefore, commonly classified as one of the most naturally-derived, effective preservatives available.

Why use Preservatives in Natural Cosmetics?

Manufacturers of cosmetics are becoming more and more aware of the public’s preference towards natural cosmetics.  However, in cosmetics where water (aqua) is a requirement – namely creams, lotions and surfactants (such as hair and shower products) – the use of a preservative is paramount if you wish the product to have a normal shelf life without being kept refrigerated at all times.  When you think that most skincare products are stored in your bathroom where there are hordes of unknown germs, lots of humidity and warm temperature, you’ll appreciate the importance of preservatives.

Research into Parabens and Your Health

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the preservatives called Parabens displayed estrogenic activity in several tests.  In other words, these chemicals mimic your body’s hormones and can have endrocrine-disrupting action when they are rubbed into your body i.e they can interfere with the body’s system of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into your bloodstream.  In particular, increased oestrogen levels are known to play a role in the development of breast cancer. 

Dr Elizabeth Smith wrote:”It is a known medical fact that oestrogen stimulates breast cancer” and that “anything absorbed through the skin may be as high as 10 times the concentration of an oral dose”.  She also reported that, in one study, a Paraben was injected under the skin and was found to be harmful to the uterus.  Scientists observing these harmful effects suggested that the safety in the use of Parabens should be reassessed.

Such research has, therefore, fuelled a popular belief that Parabens can migrate into breast tissue and contribute to the development of tumours.

However, no direct evidence of a causal link between Parabens and cancer has ever been shown.  Indeed in 2005 a report by R Golden, J Gandy and G Vollmer stated that “daily exposure to Parabens would present less risk (to health) relative to exposure to naturally occurring endocrine active chemicals in the diet”.  And the American Cancer Society also concluded that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support any claim that the use of cosmetics containing Parabens would increase an individual’s risk to developing breast cancer, but went on to state that a larger study would be needed to find what exact effect, if any, Parabens might have on breast cancer.

While current studies do not causally link Parabens with breast cancer, neither do they confirm that Parabens are safe; the long term health effects of exposure to Parabens are essentially unknown.  It is for this reason that we have decided to err on the side of caution and in our Shower Ice Cream ( and Facial Cleansers ( we have chosen to use a base that is Paraben-free.  However as I have stated above, we do not wish to convince you either way with regards your choice in cosmetic product – should it contain Parabens or be Paraben-free as, as you can appreciate, the jury is still out.

Add a comment:

Leave a comment:


Add a comment