We set out to evaluate parabens by asking these questions:
1. What are parabens, why are they used?
2. Are parabens bad? Is the danger real?
3. Should I avoid parabens?
4. Are paraben-free cosmetics always safe?
5. How can I choose safer products?
We covered the first three questions in Part 1 of this post, we urge you to read it if you haven't done so already. We will answer the last two questions today.
Are paraben-free cosmetics always safe?
- It's tough for cosmetics to be preservative-free, unless you follow extremely restrictive formulations. So something's got to replace parabens. And chemists have been working overtime to find solutions.
- New preservatives have to be safe on two counts:
- They have to be safe chemicals
- They have to effectively kill microbes in the formulation, giving it the shelf-life and PAO (what's PAO?) that we desire.
- Formula restrictions: Some preservatives work only in specified pH ranges, some are ineffective beyond a certain temperature, some others are incompatible with other parts of the formula. If chemists choose the wrong preservative for the formulation, you have an unsafe product in your hands
- Formaldehyde releasers: Some preservatives (e.g., diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin) work by releasing formaldehyde in the formulation. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen - highly avoidable! Interested readers can read this article on formaldehyde from the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, US
- Toxic preservatives: Some paraben-substitutes are themselves quite toxic. Example: Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate is toxic by inhalation and should not be used in aerosols and sprays
How can I choose safer products?
- Choose brands that care about safety and environmental impact of their products. Read the back-of-pack carefully to see what the brand has to say, if at all :-|
- Look for what's replacing the parabens, and use a dependable, objective service like Cosmetic Ingredient Review or EWG's Skin Deep to see if what's in your cosmetic is safe.
- You can ask us, too, but do be aware that we have our own range of products coming up. We promise to be independent and objective in what we say, as we are being here on this blog.