“Parabens” - it’s one of those words that gets tossed around in the skincare world but do you actually know what they are? Or is it a bit like inflation where you don’t know exactly what it is but at this point you’re too embarrassed to ask? Just us?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you! We’re going to take you through what parabens are and why you should be studying your products’ ingredients list to look out for them. After all, looking at the ingredients before purchasing your skincare is all well and good, but when you have no idea what those confusing words mean it’s about as useful as an underwater hairdryer.
What are Parabens?
In a nutshell, parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics and skincare products. You’ll even find them in most packaged foods you eat!
They’re added to cosmetics to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and extend the shelf life of the product. Parabens in skincare fight off fungus and bacteria which sounds great, but they have a dark side as well, which we’ll get into a little later on.
Parabens are common in a range of products, from moisturisers, to face and body cleansers, to sunscreens and makeup. You can spot a paraben a mile off just by taking a look at the ingredients list. The most common parabens are listed as butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben. For those of you following along, you’re looking for anything that has ‘paraben’ at the end.
You might have guessed it by now, but with esmi Skin Mineral’s natural approach to skincare, we’ve ditched all of the parabens from our products. Let’s talk about why…
Are Parabens Bad for your Skin?
While parabens might mean a longer shelf life for your products, the issue arises when the parabens penetrate the skin. In fact, parabens accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and currently, there is very little regulation around parabens in skincare. Okay, take a deep breath, you’re not going to start growing a third arm, but it is worth taking note of how parabens can affect you and specifically, your skin.
The most common side effects you’ll see when overloading on parabens is dryness and sensitivity. One study actually showed that ethylparaben, when used as an antifungal agent, can make the skin more susceptible to allergic reactions and dermatitis. Reactions to the overuse of parabens can be especially bad if you have eczema, psoriasis or other skin irritations.
Now for the good news: there are a range of effective alternatives to artificial parabens that are kinder to your skin. Phenoxyethanol is the most widely used alternative (and one we love) that is safer than parabens. It is way more gentle than most preservatives and it is how we keep our esmi products on your shelf for longer, without bacteria growth, of course. The best part? It’s gentler properties mean it rarely causes skin irritation or allergic reactions, unlike its mean cousin paraben.
Other amazing paraben alternatives are oils and extracts from plants that offer antibacterial properties. Kakadu Plum is just one example of a plant-based preservative that works a treat. It has been used for its antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties for generations and here at esmi, we’re big fans. Our brightening products like the Pomegranate Brightening Serum are packed with Kakadu Plum for its brightening and preservative properties.
Parabens and the Environment
The impacts of parabens don’t just stop at your face. When you wash products off your face and they go down the drain, they too can have seriously damaging impacts on the environment. The overuse of parabens in skincare particularly impacts aquatic life - it is not just the straws and plastic bags turtles have to watch out for!
Scientists are now reporting that parabens are showing up in the tissue of marine life. While it is too early to say exactly what the impact of parabens is on wildlife, they are on the rise and their presence in the environment and surface water has increased. Needless to say, that has experts concerned.
At esmi, we of course want to create products that transform your skin in the best possible way, but without throwing the environment under the bus in the process. We know doing both is possible because, well, we’re doing it - one paraben-free product at a time!
Check out the esmi ingredients for information on what is in our products, or get in touch with a skin consultant here for more information.