In this blog, I will explain the controversies and why it is necessary to use preservatives in cosmetics. In recent years, preservatives have faced negative press of alleged health risks such as allergies or endocrine disruption. However, preservatives are essential in cosmetics to prevent the growth of bacteria, to maintain quality, and to prolong shelf life. Microbial contamination may occur at various times during the life of the product, from manufacturing to repeated customer use. The use of a preservative impedes this from occurring. Effective preservative systems will kill off germs and other contaminants.
International health authorities and leading scientists have deemed that the lack of preservative systems is more dangerous than the non-supported allegations. Without preservatives, cosmetic goods could expose consumers to potentially harmful mold, bacteria, and fungi. Also, the products can start to smell unpleasant and change in color. Ever open a tube of cream that smells and looks odd!? I know I have and it goes straight into the garbage can. In extreme cases, microbial contamination may lead to serious health risks such as staph infections and immune system deficiencies resulting in hospitalization. The US FDA even went as far as providing regulatory guidance stating that “preservatives-free” and “parabens-free” claims cannot be made without appropriate safety testing. Furthermore, products making these claims would most likely be flagged for inspections at customs. International health authorities hold a strong position that preservative systems are safe and necessary in cosmetics, and as a part of their due diligence, they regularly review and assess the safety of ingredients.
Parabens are very effective preservatives at low concentrations, heat stable and parabens behave synergistically with other preservatives. Currently, no other preservatives on the market perform as well as parabens even when maximizing their concentration limits.
Parabens are shown to be safe and effective by decades of research and government agencies across the world. The safety of parabens was initially put into question in 2004 when Philippa Darbe published a poorly researched paper linking breast cancer to the use of antiperspirants containing parabens. Many quoted it as junk science. To their point, in 2012, Darbe retracted her paper stating that 99% of healthy breast tissue samples contain at least one paraben.
Since then, the use of parabens has still been controversial to which some individuals are advocating for preservative-free and paraben-free products. The industry responded to this “free of” epidemic, causing health authorities to regulate heavily these potentially dangerous products. Current research has yet to prove parabens to be harmful when used within their recommended concentrations. Thus, parabens are deemed safe for use.
Drs. Rodan + Fields, and scientist within the Corporation, have always been and remain committed to product safety and to the design of products that not only work, but that also remain in compliance with cosmetic regulations. Adequate products systems, including parabens, are essential when formulating safe and effective cosmetics. There are no known health risks when preservatives are used within their recommended concentrations. And to the contrary, preservative-free products may pose serious health risks.
Source: R + F Frequently Asked Questions Parabens & Other Preservatives, original and updated version 1/4/2017.
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Your Friend, Dr. Younger You
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