Reader question: Are parabens safe?

I am just curious, whenever you choose make-up or beauty products do you check if it is paraben-free or not? I have a LOT of products that I use that has paraben (ex. BenNye powder) and most of them are my go-to products which irks me because I've read that paraben induces breast cancer. How about you? - Ella

Hi Ella! Good question. Parabens have been one of the scapegoats of fear-mongering "organic" brands for years now, but there is no conclusive study (so far) that links parabens to breast cancer or any form of disease. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration consider parabens to be safe. Methyl and propylparaben are classified as GRAS, or Generally Regarded As Safe. In the 40 years that parabens have been used in the US, there have been no long or short-term toxic effects found in humans. 

There was a study published in 2004 that noted the presence of parabens in breast tumors. However, the study did not say whether the parabens were harmful to our health or if they were one of the causes of cancer. Nonetheless the "Paraben Panic" has spread to the Internets via one of those innocuous chain emails.

The left us with a vague idea of parabens being hazardous to our health. That's ironic, because they are in fact one of the most useful and commonly used ingredients in cosmetics, personal care products, and even food preparation. According to the FDA parabens are "safe for use in cosmetic products at levels up to 25%...they are [typically] used at levels ranging from 0.01 to 0.3%". 

Parabens prevent fungi and microbial growth in cosmetics, while maintaining its quality and integrity at the same time. In short: parabens won't kill you, but fungi and bacteria can. I like having parabens in my beauty products, truth be told. It's how I know that they won't be harboring any nasty things after a few weeks! If there are no parabens, I would usually look for other types of preservatives. Even "organic" products have some form of preservatives in them, and if they don't, you really shouldn't be using them - at least, not for long.

One of top pet peeves are people and companies preaching to me, scaring me into using organic beauty products. I'm not saying that organic things aren't any good, but they are not necessarily better for you. Do your own research. Embrace the facts. Don't base your knowledge on hearsay. :)

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