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Paraben-Free: The Real Story About Preservatives In Your Skincare

When it comes to skincare, I often get the question “is it paraben-free?” But, what does that really mean? In the last couple of years, there has been quite the craze of paraben-free products. Get the scoop here about parabens so next time you are shopping for skincare, you will know how to pick the best products for you.

What are parabens?

Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products such as soap, moisturizers, shaving cream and underarm deodorant, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Scientifically, parabens are esters (a compound formed from acid and alcohol) of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. The FDA says the most common are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Companies use parabens to extend the shelf life of products and prevent growth of bacteria and fungi in, for instance, face cream.

But some think that parabens may be linked to breast cancer and fertility issues.

Are parabens dangerous?

A 2004 study by Dr. Philippa Darbre published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found parabens in breast tumors. However, the FDA states in its official post on parabens that "the study did not show that parabens cause cancer." The "FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens," the post says.

A 2008 opinion on parabens from the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Consumer Products states that "methyl paraben and ethyl paraben are not subjects of concern," but that "the safety assessment of propyl and butyl paraben cannot be finalized yet."

So, there isn't a consensus on whether parabens are safe. Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, chairwoman of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, an independent body established by the industry that shares findings with the FDA, says the panel is monitoring the scientific literature and will review the safety of parabens again as new studies become available.

For those of you who would like to err on the safe side, GLOW carries the IMAGE Skincare line that is entirely paraben-free. For more information visit our IMAGE Skincare page or stop by GLOW anytime to take a look at the products.