What are parabens?

“But are the ingredients contained in cosmetics really healthy?” This is one of the questions consumers ask themselves when they want to buy a cosmetic product. One of the most feared ingredients is the Paraben class. Parabens in cosmetics have been (and are) currently used as a preservative to stop the growth of fungi that can be generated in a cosmetic product. If, for example, we leave a yogurt open for days, we will see the appearance of mould on its surface. Similarly, we could observe the appearance of fungi in skincare products without the use of preservatives. This is to underline that the presence of preservatives is not to be considered so useless.
In this specific case, I would like to talk about the Parabens and try to clarify the subject.

Parabens: what they are

In chemistry, they are known as esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid that I will describe in this complicated sketch 😀

parabens chemistry

The important thing is that they are synthetically produced in chemistry laboratories and they show good antimicrobial and fungicidal action.

ECOCERT standards, the certification for natural and organic cosmetics, do not allow the use of parabens since this ingredient does not come from renewable resources or by environmentally friendly processes. (1)

Parabens: why are they considered dangerous?

If they are not safe for us, why do we still find them in products that we use every day??

As described in a previous post (have a look here) there was.. and there is right now, a strong debate about their use in cosmetics.

That’s because, in 2004 a preliminary study investigated their potential danger on the human health and in particular for the risk of breast cancer. This caused alarmism in people who began to avoid buying products with parabens. Until now we don’t have the proof of this dangerousness for methylparaben and ethylparaben even though researchers are investigating deeper and deeper this topic.

Parabens in EU

The European commission with the Annex V to Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 claimed (2):

[..] methylparaben and ethylparaben are safe at the maximum authorised concentrations

Isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben and pentylparaben were banned by Commission Regulation (EU) No358/2014( 7)

NB: Isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben and pentylparaben were banned by Commission Regulation !!!! (3)

Parabens in USA

In USA – FDA, The Food and Drug Administration – federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, claimed (4):

“FDA scientists continue to review published studies on the safety of parabens. At this time, we do not have information showing that parabens as they are used in cosmetics have an effect on human health.”

As consumer I like to be informed and also to understand which benefits or problems a compound could induce.

Just be updated and informed 😉


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