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Home Cosmetic Science Talk General Change my view Were Parabens Falsely Demonized For use in Cosmetics/Skincare

  • Were Parabens Falsely Demonized For use in Cosmetics/Skincare

    Posted by Melcas on May 5, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Hello! I just ran across a few articles saying how parabens were made out to seem harmful by incomplete and incompetent scientific studies and that there was pretty much no valid evidence showing that methylparaban and butylparaben in particular were actually harmful in any way that they were thought to be. For a lot of the time I have been infatuated with skincare and ingredients I have always thought that parabens were horrible for your skin and you’re bodily functions over time (the “clean at Sephora”) marketing gimmick also added to the fears. I would definitely like to start using parabens as the main preservative in my water based skincare products but I feel like I am still afraid of them probably because I always knew them as harmful and am weary of actually putting it on my skin. Does anyone have some helpful information for me that could maybe push my over the edge to start using it in my skincare formulations?

    Also one of the resources I have been using to figure out if ingredients are bad for you or not is Paulas Choice and was wondering if anyone here knows of it as being a good source or not when it comes to their ingredient dictionary.

    czkld replied 2 years, 11 months ago 8 Members · 16 Replies
  • 16 Replies
  • ngarayeva001

    May 5, 2020 at 6:45 am

    They are very gentle and non irritating. If you are formulating gentle face wash or eye cream have a look at Germaben II. It also work well in clear products. If you are looking for a bulletproof system - Phenonip (needs heating) 4 parabens and phenoxyethanol. 

    Re Paula’s.. she is better that most sources in the internet. She demonizes alcohol in skincare as drying which isn’t necessary true (I personally think it’s not the alcohol but how it’s used). She also hates all types of fragrances which isn’t black or white matter either (although I don’t use it on my face either). She also often buys into marketing and believes that ceramides and peptides are great. I wish it was true but the research currently available isn’t sufficient to conclude that. My point is, if she says something is safe I think you can trust her. If she says some ingredient is fantastic, double check that.
  • EVchem

    May 5, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    I like Michelle if you’re looking to learn, I think she does a good job and haven’t noticed anything erroneous.

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    May 5, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    To answer your initial question, yes parabens were falsely demonized. They are a perfectly safe preservative that should get wider use than they have now.  This has been verified by the most important groups responsible for the verification of the safety of cosmetic ingredients including…

    SCCS (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety) - simplified explanation & scientific explanation

    CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) - scientific explanation and consumer friendly explanation.

    Paula’s Choice is fine enough, but they are also marketing & selling products so they are not a completely reliable source of information. I agree with @ngarayeva001 assessment of their reliability. They are excessive in their conclusions about alcohol & fragrance in cosmetics. And they blindly tout the benefits claims ingredients like ceramides, peptides, and now CBD which will have practically no noticeable difference to the consumer. 

    In the US, it is illegal to sell unsafe cosmetics. Anything you can buy at Sephora, Target, Walgreens, Ulta or any of the other standard stores is safe.  Anything produced by P&G, Unilever, L’Oreal, etc. is safe. These companies would face expensive lawsuits if they weren’t & there is no good reason to sell unsafe cosmetics anyway.

    The scare stories about parabens (or most any other vilified ingredient in cosmetics) is all a result of the fact that everyone can produce products that work just as good as everyone else.    

    So, pretty much the only way a new company can set themselves apart from another company is through their marketing story. And in the realm of stories that you can tell, one of the most effective & motivating stories is FEAR. This has given rise to the natural movement, green beauty, and now “clean” beauty.

    None of these movements have lead to products that are measurably safer than standard cosmetic products. They just aren’t. And that’s because standard beauty products are already safe.

    Parabens have been and continue to be safe for use in cosmetics. They have been in use for over 80 years and have been proven time & time again to be safe. Unless you are one of the rare individuals that has an allergic reaction, there is no good reason to avoid them.

  • Pharma

    May 5, 2020 at 7:55 pm
    The original publication regarding parabens and breast cancer was not that great a read and not very well done… but it got blown up to the size of Saturn by media picking it up from other attention snatching media… and it got all twisted up and people started panicking. The following publication was relativising things greatly but nobody cared. The usual *shrug*…
    There is no reason why methyl paraben should/could be problematic. Propyl paraben might be if eaten at considerable amounts. The highly lipophilic ones on the other hand do bear the potential of endocrine disruptors much like most of the sunscreen ingredients do. Though there’s a small difference between these: sunscreens are used at hundred times higher concentrations and from what we know, they cause serious harm to aquatic life and are potentially altering development of embryos and small children. Parabens don’t.
    I should still have a 20 year old book somewhere on my shelves by a researcher from university Zurich who got silenced by lawsuits and lobbying involving several of the big companies selling sun creams and the like. What she uncovered/published wasn’t really new but now backed up by science and the world shat on her because $$, no real alternative, and people want to bronze (oh, and did I mention $$?). BTW students got that book for free, nobody wanted to publish it because of fear and so she paid the first and only edition out of her own pockets. When I first met her, she was still in fighting mode but some time later she was broken (and broke) ;( .
    Bottom line is: parabens are, compared to most equally efficient alternatives, harmless and very safe preservatives for topical application and even for certain foods and oral pharmaceuticals. Sunscreens (fortunately, the worst ones are now being banned) mean DEATH (probably not for you, probably for your baby, and certainly for nature).
  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    May 5, 2020 at 8:16 pm


    Sunscreens (fortunately, the worst ones are now being banned) mean DEATH (probably not for you, probably for your baby, and certainly for nature).

    Of course, the corollary is also true - Not using sunscreens means DEATH (probably for you, your baby, but maybe not nature)

  • ngarayeva001

    May 5, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    @Pharma, may I ask which sunscreens are you referring to? I am asking because I have been using chemical sunscreens (I know they all are chemical, I mean everything that isn’t TiO2 and ZnO) for years and I am considering to switch to physical. I don’t make sunscreens myself and don’t know much.

  • Doreen

    May 6, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Sunscreens aren’t for homecrafters to make (including the ones with TiO2 and ZnO), so it’s wise that you don’t make it yourself.
    Regarding chemical filters af few ‘bad ones’ have been banned, but for physical, TiO2 and ZnO nano particles are said to destroy coral reefs (and other marine life).

  • Pharma

    May 6, 2020 at 7:01 pm
    @Perry true that! I had to look up the word ‘corollary’; I thought it has something to do with corals because octyl methoxycinnamate and benzophenone-3 harm corals (as @Doreen pointed out).
    Maybe you know (cause the profs I asked didn’t) why sunscreens have to be so highly lipophilic? Turning them less lipophilic, maybe even water soluble should more or less completely deprive them of their ecological and hormonal side effects. Although, development went exactly the other way round with the first UV-filter, PABA…
    @ngarayeva001 Especially benzophenone-3, avobenzone, and the ones containing camphor and cinnamic acid as part of their structure are problematic and are sometimes also banned or under REACH investigation. Using ‘nano-zinc’ and other nanomaterials is playing with the unknown and has, with some applications, already proven to be a bad idea. Nanomaterials are tempting and promising, opening doors to rooms we didn’t even knew were there because they behave in unique ways, ways we don’t fully understand, let alone were able to predict. As much as the scientist in me adores such materials, I also fear the unforeseen effects they cause in nature and how the play tricks with our immune system which both can’t handle this whole new universe.
    One problem with these compounds isn’t just a possible health concern per se but tissue accumulation over the years, widespread use and constant exposure, and also the huge tonnage which, because these compounds are not sufficiently degraded in water treatment plants, ends up in the oceans where it accumulates further and they kills a plethora of species or renders them sterile (e.g. fish and crocodiles).
    The only two ‘healthy’ solutions we have are to do everything we can to ‘close’ the ozone hole and avoid sun exposure (stay home, stay safe, for once not because of coronavirus).
    Sunlight is beautiful and is life but it’s also 80% of skin ageing and the main reason for skin cancer… there is no black and white in nature, nature takes every shape and doesn’t know ‘good’ or ‘evil’, humans have just forgotten to live with that and always want what we in Switzerland call ‘De Füüfer und s Weggli’ = engl. have the five cents and the milk roll (which back in the day cost 5 cents).
  • Bill_Toge

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    May 6, 2020 at 7:30 pm
    @Pharma if UV filters were were water-soluble they could very easily be washed off by, e.g. swimming
    there are more advanced filters developed since the early 1990s, which are non-toxic and environmentally inert (e.g. bisoctrizole, bemotrizinol) and approved for use pretty much everywhere in the world apart from the USA
  • Melcas

    May 7, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    @ngarayeva001 @Perry @Pharma @EVchem Thanks for the input guys I really appreciate it, yet I realized that even if I’m comfortable with using parabens on my face it won’t count for much because consumer demand in pushing people against them and I am looking to maybe make a business out of this once I perfect everything. I was wondering if there were any good broad spectrum preservatives that could be recommended. I have heard that phenoxyethanol is a great one but unfortunately I’ve used it in the past and have had adverse reactions to it. I have read some conflicting articles and am wondering if 1,2 Hexanediol would be a broad spectrum or if I should mix it with other things. Any suggestions help thank you!

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    May 7, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    There is no “just use this” preservative if you are going to avoid parabens and formaldehyde donors. 

    In that case, the specific preservative you use will depend heavily on the chemical composition of your formula.

    You might check your premises though. I contend that going paraben free is not consumer driven but marketer driven. Some of the best selling cosmetic products are preserved with parabens (and formaldehyde donors). 

  • Pharma

    May 7, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Melcas said:

    …phenoxyethanol is a great one but unfortunately I’ve used it in the past and have had adverse reactions to it.
    …if 1,2 Hexanediol would be a broad spectrum or if I should mix it with other things. Any suggestions help thank you!

    I wouldn’t solely rely on 1,2-hexanediol. If Symrise and co. don’t, you probably shouldn’t either ;) .
    You could however use it in combination with a reduced amount of phenoxyethanol or use a similar phenol (phenethyl alcohol as an example) instead and/or an organic acid (anisic and/or levulinic acid). By choice or necessity, a booster (e.g. glyceryl caprylate or ethylhexylglycerin) and certainly a chelate (EDTA or phytate) can or should be added as well.
    This is just to give you an idea! Cocktails are, especially with alternative preservatives, better than fighting just on one front.
    Consumers are stupid… the more ridiculous a rant, the easier they gulp it down. Besides, you can never satisfy them. Last week, our masks were too expensive (wholesale was expensive for us too), today’s shipment was okay $-wise but the masks were green and she wanted blue. F*ç#”!
  • Melcas

    May 10, 2020 at 5:44 am

    @perry @pharma thanks so much for the info!

  • czkld

    June 26, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Do you know where I can get phenonip in the EU???

  • ngarayeva001

    June 27, 2020 at 7:03 am
  • czkld

    June 28, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    @ngarayeva001 thank you!!