Do you also avoid parabens?

When you want to buy a face cream or a body lotion at the pharmacy, supermarket or maybe on the internet, do you also choose products without parabens? Or does the sales clerk often tell you that the lotion is safe, because the product is free of parabens? If so, please read on …

Parabens are a common name for several different preservatives with the fact in common that they all end up on the name paraben. But their structure is different; and that gives them different effects. Unfortunately, most ordinary consumers do not know that.

To say it very shortly, Methyl and Ethylparaben are the good parabens. They preserve well and don’t have any endocrine disrupters or allergenic effect.

But the problem for these two parabens is that when we (the media, consumers and responsible parents) for more than ten years ago started talking about parabens, we could not manage to distinguish between Methyl, Ethyl, Butyl, Isobutyl and all the other parabens. So we started the debate by streamlining all parabens and make them all dangerous and harmful.

An example from my own world:

For about five years ago, a journalist asked me to attend a program on national television to talk about the dangerous parabens. I explained to him that there is a big difference between parabens and that Methyl- and Ethylparaben with short carbon chains have quite different effects than, say, Butylparaben. Nevertheless, he was not interested to discuss the real problem, and asked if I had another substance, we could talk about. I suggested that we could talk about Methyldibromo Glutaronitrile (which is today prohibited in cosmetic products in Europe). But still “not interested”, that name was way ‘too difficult for the consumers to remember, Parabens on the other hand that’s a name you can remember he said. I thought it was quite arbitrary and refused to participate in such a horror show – it would be like saying that all the people of a particular ethnicity or peoples whose surname is Hansen would behave exactly the same.

Fourteen days later, I saw the program in the television. On national TV appeared a student I knew from another institution (considered expert on Parabens), and proclaimed the horror: “Parabens are dangerous …”

The media just seems to love the simple but scary stuff. We are made stupid and manipulated, and the above example is a prime example. It is annoying, and frankly – it pisses me off. Why do I even care about this?

I care because it is becoming increasingly difficult for manufacturers of cosmetics to find good and safe preservatives. It may seem like the manufactures problem alone. In the end, this problem becomes yours and mine. It does so because the greater challenges the manufactures have to find the good additives, the more time they spend on product development. The more time they spend, the more expensive the products will be. In addition, we risk that the manufacturers no longer can preserve their products with great additives, which can result in fungal and bacterial growth in our creams and body lotions.

Do a search on fungal and bacterial growth; I will assure you that it is not good for human health.

Methyl and Ethylparaben are excellent for preserving, and they are safe. Also, according to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency on their website says:

‘The EU’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has estimated that these two parabens [methyl and ethyl] does not pose a health risk in cosmetic products in the applied concentrations of 0.4%.

I would like to start a nuanced debate about the parabens. I encourage you to spread the message that parabens are not just parabens. There are the good paraben and the bad parabens. Just like food – good food and bad food.