I'm fond of telling new customers that our products do not contain parabens. In response I generally get verbal accolades, but when I sneak a peak into their eyes I read the same question: WTF are parabens???
In short, parabens are preservatives whose suffix is paraben, like butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben or propylparaben. Their primary purpose is to neutralize the mixture of water and oil to prevent bacteria from forming, which would otherwise naturally take place. We all know water and oil don’t mix. Furthermore, we know water has no positive benefit to our skin, as a cosmetic. So why do they put water in the mix? First and foremost, water stretches. Oils are precious and most times when they are mentioned on a label they only account for a small fraction of the formula. In fact, they should be highlighting water, as that is the most significant ingredient in all lotions. For those who wonder why natural products are a bit more expensive, this fact contributes to the disparity between the prices of chemically stabilized products and those that actually make products from natures oils, free of parabens.
But what’s the big deal? Are those of us in the all-natural sector making a big deal about nothing? Of course not. In the 90’s it was established that parabens mimic estrogen in the body and have a direct correlation to breast cancer. Although the amount in your favorite lotion might be “safe” according to the F.D.A., parabens build up in the body and over time they have a cumulative effect. In the industry, the flat line is that “there is no scientific evidence to support any form of cancer”, but that’s what they said about tobacco until the damn broke.
Given this information, the wisest adjustment would be to purchase natural products and pay attention to the expiration date. All oils eventually become rancid, this is a fact of nature, but most can comfortably be on your dresser for a year or more. You can’t pass them down to your grandchildren, as with paraben lotions, but you will get the full benefit of the product you purchased without adding to the carcinogens already bombarding your body.
Be smart, go natural.