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Beauty Buzzwords: Parabens

Parabens, alpha hydroxy acids, peptides… These are beauty words that we often hear, but do we really know what they mean? Each week, Arabia’s resident beauty expert, Basma Faramawy, unravels the mysteries behind these beauty buzzwords to better guide you through the ins and outs of your beauty cupboard.

What are they? It would appear that “No Parabens” is the new 20% off. We have been programmed to believe that “No Parabens” equates to “No Danger”. Parabens are chemicals commonly used as preservatives in many pharmaceutical products. They have been around since the early 1930s and were approved for usage in cosmetics in 1984. Methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben are some of the more common words that you will find on the back of your beauty and cosmetic products.

What do they do? Used for their fungicidal and bactericidal properties, parabens protect products from decay and cost very little to manufacture, which is why they are so commonplace.

Good or bad? Though now used in the cosmetics industry for a considerable amount of time, significant controversy has recently surrounded the use of parabens. Why? Parabens have been detected in breast cancer tumors and now studies suggest that this is due to their ability to mimic estrogen, a hormone that plays a role in the development of breast cancer. Unfortunately, natural alternatives such as grapefruit seed extract are not as effective. Supporters of paraben usage claim that these side effects have been exaggerated.

Would we feel safe using a six-month-old face cream should there be a chance of it decomposing? Another topic of concern is that when all the so-called “dangerous” ingredients are eliminated, one is left with a product that is not as effective.

At present, the carcinogenic elements have not been researched thoroughly enough to fully stamp out the use of parabens. All arguments should thus be considered when making your product choice.

Where are they found? In almost everything unless the product states that it is paraben-free: cosmetic creams, shampoos, gels, makeup, tanning solutions, toothpaste, and, perhaps most worryingly, is the use of parabens in food.

If you prefer the paraben-free option, make sure that the product expiration date is clearly indicated. For skincare, paraben-free brands on the market include: Lush, Jurlique, Shiffa, and Caudalie.

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