Are Parabens in Skincare Really Bad for You?

Why are parabens bad? It can be confusing. You see Parabens make a showing on a dirty dozen list, and hear them labeled as toxic carcinogens. Then you see other respected skincare manufacturers say there’s nothing really wrong with them at all, and implying they would have no trouble eating chocolate laced with the chemical. What is the controversy about, and who is right here?

Why Are Parabens Bad for You?

What’s the truth? To begin with, a paraben is a specific kind of artificial preservative, either a parahydroxybenzoate or an ester of parahydroxybenzoic acid. It is very very good at what it does, which is inhibiting fungi and bacterial growth. This makes it a handy preservative, and it used to be considered an essential ingredient to make sure shampoos and skincare products didn’t spoil. Today, there are other alternatives, but parabens are still one of the cheaper options.

What about the claims of carcinogenic? Well, to begin with, parabens have not been proven to cause cancer in humans. Proving something that open-ended is a tricky proposition. One study found parabens in samples of cancer growths. This, in itself, does not prove anything, except that it is absorbed through the skin. But treating cancer cells, in the lab, with a very low dose of butylparaben was shown to increase their growth.

This should be enough to make you suspicious, and perhaps lead you to avoid parabens when it is easy to do so. But there are actually other, better established problems with parabens as well. These compounds have been determined to be endocrine disrupters; substances that interfere with hormone regulation in people. After being absorbed through the skin, they enter the bloodstream and can interfere with both reproductive health and body regulation. Men who are exposed to parabens tend to have lower testosterone levels and poorer quality sperm.

Parabens have also been shown to irritate skin, especially after long-term use results in sensitization. Different parabens have different likelihoods of irritation; the longer the molecule’s side-chain, the likelier it is to cause sensitivity.

Why Are Parabens Bad for the Environment

The damage they do to you is not the only problem with parabens. After you’ve used a paraben-containing soap or shampoo, much of it will go down the drain with your wash water. This gives it a quick trip to the ocean, where it continues its bacteria-killing habit. And it doesn’t only kill bacteria; it also has been shown—in very low levels—to kill coral.

Choosing Paraben Free Skincare

It’s usually fairly simple to locate parabens on your skincare ingredient list. The most common parabens are:

  • methylparaben
  • propylparaben
  • butylparaben

See the trend? These parabens are easy to pick out; they’ve all got the red-flag ending you already know really well.

But there’s a catch. Maybe because of the bad rap these compounds have, some companies are choosing to call them by an alternate name. If you see alkyl parahydroxy benzoates listed, be aware that is the same thing.

There’s one more problem you should be aware of. Some skincare companies have raced to eliminate parabens from their list to avoid losing customers, but they’ve replaced it with other, even more, problematic chemicals. When choosing your skincare product, look at the big picture, and make sure you go with a company that takes non-toxic skincare and A company like Fabric.

We take your health seriously, and we care about the environment. We don’t use parabens in any of our lines, and we research each of our ingredients carefully to be sure that nothing toxic ever goes into any of our men’s skincare products.

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