Cosmetics and cosmeceuticals are created to help women look and feel beautiful.
However, behind the scenes, many companies are using ingredients and practices that are far from beautiful.
Many product labels now feature ‘paraben free’ on the packaging. But what exactly are parabens?
Parabens are preservatives that are used in cosmetics and some personal hygiene products to combat microbial growth. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben.
People are exposed to parabens, according to the CDC (Center of Disease Control), through touching or eating them. As far as topically, products like moisturizers, shaving creams, makeup and hair-care products that contain parabens will be absorbed through the skin.
According to a study from the Journal of Toxicology, parabens were detected in breast tumors, which raised some concern amongst consumer.
However, the FDA is still evaluating new data on this subject matter, and for the time being, believes there’s no reason for consumers to be concerned. Although many believe the ‘dotted line’ possible connection between parabens and cancer is enough to detract them from buying health and beauty products which contain these preservatives.
One consumer website, Buyer Review, independently evaluates skin care products (such as neck creams, anti-aging creams, facial cleansers, and acne treatments) for performance, living up to its promise and ingredients. Each product on the site has individual reviews as well as a ‘Top Ten’ list is featured for each category.
For those consumers who want to further their product research, EWG (Environmental Working Group) contains an online database called where consumers can search more than 69,000 health and beauty products to see if they are natural, paraben free and safe to use.
According to SafeCosmetics.org other harmful ingredients in health and beauty products include:
- mercury/thimerosol – found in some ointments, eye drops and deodorants
- lead acetate – found in some hair dyes and skin cleansers
- formaldehyde and toluene – found in some nail polish removers and nail products
- petrochemicals – found in hair relaxers, shampoos, mascara, perfume, foundation, lipstick and lip balm
- coal tar – found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams and hair dyes
- phthalates – found in some nail polish, fragrances and hair spray
- placenta – found in some hair relaxers, moisturizers and toner
But for some consumers, ingredients alone is not a deterrent to buy beauty products with parabens, but animal testing is.
PETA has a robust online database where consumers can look up by company name, alphabetically or view a full list of which companies test on animals and which are ‘cruelty free’. Some very popular cosmetic brands including Avon, Almay, Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Mary Kay, Max Factor, Maybelline, Olay, Shiseido, Clinique and more are all on PETA’s list for animal testing.
On the flip side, if you want to make your cosmetic purchase based on companies that do not test on animals, you can view the entire list of more than 25 pages which includes Kora Oganics (super model, Miranda Kerr’s, skin care company), Burt’s Bees, Carol’s Daughter, Crabtree & Evelyn, Liz Claiborne and many more.
Nowadays, it’s critical for consumers to take charge of their pre-purchase behavior, do their due diligence, and find out what’s in – and what’s going on – with the products they are putting on their bodies.
Making educated decisions can help one physically (health) and metaphysically (morals). It may also have a deeper impact with legislation that is created surrounding consumer information and the cosmetic industry.
Such decisions and their potential consequences are more than skin deep …so be wise when making them.