Jul. 09, 2020

Are Parabens really as bad as claimed?

You know them, the disreputable parabens that used to be present in almost all cosmetic products but are nowadays avoided by everyone. In recent years there has been a lot of controversy about the use of parabens in cosmetics and skin care products. More and more products with the claim "Paraben-free" came on the market. But are these ingredients really as bad as is often claimed? We did some research and discuss our findings in this blog.


Parabens are chemicals that are added to cosmetics, medicines, cleaning products. You can find them in the list of ingredients on the product under methylparaben , propyl paraben, butylparaben or benzylparaben . They are added as a preservative and inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria so that they cannot spread in the product. By adding a preservative, the products can be kept longer and are longer active.

Parabens have been used for decades but in recent years there has been increasing controversy about the use of these ingredients. And the cosmetics market was all too eager to respond to this. Labels appeared everywhere with the claim "Paraben-free" . As a result, the image of parabens has dropped sharply. Nowadays they are regarded as bad or dangerous although they are highly effective as a preservative.


Since 2018, the European Cosmetic Regulation 1 , prohibits the use of this type of claims on legally authorized products. Their aim is to improve the negative reputation of certain cosmetic ingredients, such as parabens, and to avoid consumers being misled by this type of claims.


One of the reasons why parabens are "bad" is because of the risk of allergic reactions. Indeed, some people may develop an allergy to parabens and suffer from eczema in the process. But the risk of an allergy or irritation is low in parabens compared to other preservatives. Parabens are used worldwide and are one of the least allergenic preservatives on the market(< 2% allergic reactions) 2-3 . The panic about allergic reactions is therefore unjustified.


A second reason would be that 'when using parabens, you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer' . Research has shown that parabens can penetrate the skin and have a slight estrogenic effect 4 . Estrogen is a hormone associated with breast cancer. However, the estrogenic effect of parabens is much weaker than the naturally occurring form of estrogen in our body (estradiol). The study showed that the most potent paraben (butylparaben) had a 10,000- to 100,000-less strong potency compared to estradiol 4 .

A second study that caused a lot of panic was the Harvey & Darbe study in 2004 5 . They investigated the presence of parabens in breast tumor tissue. In most patients parabens were found in breast tumor tissue. These results caused panic and many people believed that the use of parabens increased the risk of breast cancer. In the study by Harvey & Darbe we must however make a few comments. For example, the presence of parabens in healthy breast tissue was not investigated. As a result, there was no basis for comparison or reference. Moreover, no link could be made between the presence of parabens and the growth or development of breast cancer. This publication and its conclusions should therefore be taken with a grain of salt.


Due to the controversy about parabens, Nomige does not use parabens in its skin care products. This certainly does not mean that Nomige does not support the use of parabens as a preservative. Parabens remain one of the best and most researched preservatives worldwide and are difficult to replace with alternatives. Moreover, they are effective in low concentrations , which reduces the risk of allergies and irritations.

Within Europe , the use of chemicals in cosmetics is strictly regulated ( EU Cosmetic Regulation ). This takes into account an assessment by the independent Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) , an advisory body that carries out a careful risk assessment of chemicals before recommending a restriction or ban. Parabens are also subject to this regulation and have been extensively tested several times. Some parabens are banned within Europe and some others are subject to maximum concentrations in cosmetic products. Thus, those parabens that are permitted and used as preservatives in cosmetics have been assessed as safe. The fear of parabens is therefore unjustified!

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