It is common to find the claim ‘parabens-free’ on a label these days. Such claims can be specifically found in some cosmetic products. The question, then, is: what are parabens and why has the claim that something is ‘parabens-free’ become an important and differentiating factor? Is it because parabens are harmful for us?
Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as preservatives in pharmaceuticals, food products, and cosmetic and personal-hygiene products.
Some parabens occur naturally in nature.Methylparaben is a pheromone (hormone) secreted by some insects. Parabens such as propylparaben and butylparaben are naturally found in some plants and insects. All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced, although some are identical to those found in nature.
- Cosmetics: Moisturisers, lipsticks, lip balms, foundations, concealers, eye makeup, makeup removers, etc.
- Hygiene products: Shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, soaps, toothpastes, topical ointments, deodorants and anti-perspirants, shaving gels, sunscreens, etc.
- Food products: Salad dressing, mayonnaise, mustard, processed vegetables, frozen dairy products, soft drinks, baked goods, jellies, pickles, jams, etc.
- Pharmaceuticals: Topical medications, ointments, etc. Parabens are commonly used as a preservative in parenteral pharmaceuticals – that is, pharmaceuticals that are injected intravenously or intramuscularly in the human system.
- Methylparaben (E218)
- Heptylparaben (E209)
- Apply a cosmetic product containing paraben on their skin
- Apply topical drugs containing paraben on damaged or broken skin
- Ingest food products that have paraben
- Consume medicines containing paraben
- Parabens cause endocrine disruptions
- Parabens cause cancer
- Premature ageing a result of Parabens
Although the jury is out on the connection between parabens and human health, there is a growing band of products claiming to be parabensfree. Apparently, products that claim to be parabens-free use alternative preservatives such as phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, neolone, optiphen plus, hydantoin, glycacil, natrulon and benzethonium chloride.