Paraben and the Preservative Paradox

shopping supermarket aisle

Part 2 of our Commitment to being SLS and Paraben Free Blog series

Read Part One Here

PARABEN FREE has become one of the most popular ‘green mantras’ in recent years, along with many and various other FREEs. But what exactly are parabens and what’s the problem?

In short they’re very effective preservatives. They’re great at preventing the growth of harmful mould and bacteria, so for this reason, they keep food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products free from dangerous microbes for a very long time; which could certainly be argued to be a very good thing. They’re also cheap to produce so that’s all good for your profits if you are a large manufacturer of said food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

A citation from the USA suggests that parabens are present in small quantities in over 90% of items on supermarket shelves from toothpaste to pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. It’s this prevalence that has led to concerns about build-up in the human body. Moreover having been used since the 1950s, they’re infiltrating the environment too and studies report that they have been identified in the bodies of marine mammals, having been washed into the sewage system where they survive for a very long time.

The key problem with parabens is that they have been shown by some researchers, to disrupt the endocrine system. The endocrine system is our bodies’ mechanism for making and circulating hormones. It’s been shown that our bodies could mistake parabens for hormones such as oestrogen. But why does that matter? Well, hormones are very powerful chemical messengers in the body. They control and regulate many of the bodies’ behaviours, emotions, systems and processes. When they’re disrupted, some cataclysmic effects can be sustained. For example, it’s hormones (or lack of them) which can trigger serious health conditions like diabetes, reproductive issues and breast cancer, among others.

The scientific evidence for any causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, at the very low concentrations used for preservation is not watertight. However, the prevalence and longevity of paraben usage in such a broad range of consumables, the growing evidence of environmental build up and the fact that at high concentrations, a causal relationship to disruption of the endocrine system has been evidenced, is very good reason to exercise caution.

The good news is that parabens are easy to recognise on labels. They have names like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben … you get the gist … and if you’re studying chemistry, you can guess the next in the series too! There might even be a prize, if you're lucky!

So where alternatives to paraben-containing products exist, it’s certainly well worth considering whether making a swap could be better for our health and the long term sustainability of the environment!

All our Cosy Cottage products are completely free from parabens as well as SLS, Plastic and Palm Oil and we'd love to hear your thoughts about Parabens and the other ethical choices available to consumers 

Reference Sources

Life Science

US Food and Drug Administration


1 comment

  • Sandra

    I am a subscriber and love your products.
    I am not sure if this is something you could do but I would love a product to use in the shower other than a soap bar. Maybe soap on a rope??
    I keep my soap in a tin but it is a faff.
    I realise this a difficult one 🤷‍♀️
    Still love your products x

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