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Picky Panel: Parabens

We’re back with another installment of Picky Panel with our Picky Experts! This week’s topic is all about parabens, are they best to avoid or is it an overreaction? Let’s dive in and see what our Picky Expert panelists have to say!

What are parabens?

First off, let’s take a look at what parabens are and maybe why there’s so much controversy around them. Parabens are a category of chemical preservatives that have been used in beauty products since the 1920’s! Examples you may find on your product label are butylparaben, methylparaben, or propylparaben. Even though they’ve been around for a long time, recently they’ve been getting a pretty bad name in the skincare industry. This is because of a study that linked parabens to certain health issues such as cancer. This created many beauty brands to adopt the “paraben-free” label, however parabens are considered the safest preservative ingredient with one of the lowest toxicity (by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, 2019). There’s a lot of debate around this ingredient so let’s allow our Picky Experts to give their opinions!

Question #1

Do you personally avoid using parabens?

Yulia: No, parabens are the oldest known preservatives used in the long history of cosmetics. Not to mention, it has one of the lowest allergenic rates amongst cosmetic ingredients. According to EU and FDA regulations, products with parabens are officially considered safe to use. They only use a very small concentration in the formula, and therefore are unlikely to damage your health.

Beibei: Personally no, I don’t avoid them at all. They’re an excellent preservative with a long safety record in human use. According to international consensus, paraben safety is very clear. Unfortunately, fear-based marketing has led to many companies using the term ‘paraben-free’ to imply their product is superior in some way. Many may not even know why they are bad, but due to the term ‘paraben-free’ becoming widespread its created a mindset that they should avoid it anyway.

D: Honestly, I used to avoid them. But that was because I thought I had a sensitivity to them. However, it turns out that I just have sensitive skin, nothing to do with parabens specifically, and I need to pay more attention to the ingredients in my skincare routine.

Question #2

Is there a group or skincare type you would recommend not to use products containing paraben?

Yulia: I would only recommend those that have a proven paraben allergy to avoid products containing it. And just FYI, paraben allergies are only a very small percentage of people! Check with your dermatologist if you think you may have any allergy or sensitivity to it.

Beibei: Any ingredient can cause an allergy or irritation. So any individual that experiences issues from it should avoid. As a precaution, the European Scientific Committee advised to avoid using parabens near children under 6 months since they may have impaired skin barrier and easily irritated skin.

The concern over parabens stems from oestrogenic properties, but there has never been any clinically significant evidence to prove this. In pregnancy and lactation, the natural changes in hormones are enormous already. Even if parabens did exert any hormonal changes, this would likely pale in comparison to what is naturally occurring!

D: I always suggest checking with your dermatologist on what is safe and isn’t safe for your body, especially during pregnancy and lactation!

Question #3

Has there been a shift toward newer preservatives since parabens have such a bad public image?

D: Yes, there has definitely been a change in the approach to formulation thanks to the bad PR parabens have. These days, formulators are using alternative preservative raw materials, which still include parabens. I find that a lot of these alternatives are not as effective as the traditional parabens, and usually require a blend or higher concentration.

Picky and Parabens

On the Picky app, you can see in “Attributes” if a product contains parabens. Whether you want this ingredient in your product is a personal choice, but Picky respects that! So we have the option for those that need it. Check it out now!

Have more questions you want answered? Well, we’re taking questions from Q&A on Picky so start asking! Don’t forget to check out these Picky Expert’s instagrams, as well as our official Picky account, and click here to go back to our blog!

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