Debate Over The Nasty (Maybe?) Paraben Preservative

I was invited to respond to an ongoing debate over the use of the preservative paraben that was happening on the  Supplyside blog. Here’s what I contributed.

Ahhh, the paraben debate rears its polarizing head again. It seems that most who have posted to this blog are in agreement that parabens are the evil doer of the cosmetic empire. I’ve had several conversations and forum debates with cosmetic chemists who find all the reports on parabens to show them as perfectly safe as used in formulation. Who’s right? I never used parabens in my formulas. And avoided them long before it became trendy. I had my reasons, partly due to the sensitizing issues. I did, and still do, have concerns to their potential as endocrine disrupters, again, before there was a flawed study that drew them out as potential carcinogens and xenoestrogens. I also found many of the replacements to be potentially more damaging, or at least as full of caution, as parabens – phenoxyethanol comes immediately to mind. So what to do? I went straight to alcohol. Organic ethanol derived from organic grains or from wines that didn’t quite make the good wine grade. This is expensive. Also comes with the false perception of being drying, so can scare the consumer away. German companies have been doing this forever, and it works – also kicks up the organic percentage for that oh so beneficial “we’re so clean and wonderful” marketing potential. Cosmetics are a tough build due to the issues of potential or unknown toxicity, stability, and the producing of shelf-friendly products . The natural vs synthetic debate has become extremely ridiculous – and confusing to the consumer. And organic has become a marketing tool that has bypassed its environmental purpose to a false perception of healthier and better results. This has created some really lame debates over organic labeling. All for the purpose of marketing, not the environment. So, parabens – good or bad, let them go. The up side is the very real need to analyze, and develop consumer awareness of, the biological and environmental impact of cosmetic ingredients. The down side – hmmm, don’t have one.



  1. […] What’s A Paraben To Do? January 5, 2010 Filed under: Uncategorized — Whole Food Beauty (Beauty Inside & Out) @ 2:56 pm Here’s a new worry for parabens – You know parabens right? The preservative that got the bad press resulting from a weak study suggesting it was a cause of breast cancer. Then, everybody in natural went “paraben free” and the cosmetic industry put their best out there to defend the paraben and, well, I’ve written about this before, most recently on Dece 9. […]