To have the best understanding and a better perspective on parabens, it's best to understand the interesting relationships among science, public perceptions, industry actions and the like.
Remember that little controversy back in the 90's . . . all about silicone? Silicone breast implants were vilified in the media and blamed for causing a host of illnesses in women who had the implants. Guess what? There was, and still is, absolutely no link whatsoever between silicone and the cause of any of these serious illnesses. WHAT!?! How can that be? After all, companies that made these implants went out of business due to lawsuits, including huge multi-billion dollar losses for DOW Corning, the biggest manufacturer.
Well, welcome to the imperfect relationship between science/truth and our legal system and public perception! Just because the court systems may make judgments against these companies, it doesn't make it right. Factor in emotional testimonies, "scientific" witnesses that can be paid to say pretty much anything, and juries that probably don't have the scientific background to filter through what's valid and what's just plain junk. These are just some of the factors that confound our current legal system when it comes to scientific cases.
And guess what?
After all that hoopla, silicone implants are back on the market once again!
So let's take those lessons in to evaluate the whole paraben ordeal. Companies are increasingly switching to non-paraben preservative systems. Not because they believe that there is any dangers to them, but because it increases their marketability. With the rampant so-called dangers of parabens hitting the media, companies will use any reason to position themselves to take advantage of the situation. Even the companies will admit that they believe parabens are safe, but they want to open up another option. So please understand this: just because some companies maybe shifting away from parabens, this doesn't mean that they are acknowledging any dangers associated with them! Check out this article on the issue.
What's the most appalling thing I find about this paraben issue? It's the countless people taking advantage of the situation. You'll find one company after another touting "paraben-free", yet they may be using other preservatives (some that release formaldehydes (as do some parabens in combination with other preservatives), some that use sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (click for my post on this nasty preservative), worse yet, some companies are using unproven preservatives without years of safety studies to back them up. Even worse, some companies use "preservative free" formulas, and most of these just pose an additional danger of possible contamination by microorganisms that could lead to infection.
I'm not saying use or don't use parabens, just to be wholly informed on the issue. Please refer to Paraben Posts Part ONE, TWO, & THREE for more coverage. My next post (Parabens Part 5) will be dedicated to helping you be able to do the "hard research" for yourself.
What NOT to do
Just don't be led to believe the industry is telling you the truth on anything, the business of cosmetics and skincare, unfortunately, relies on painting unrealistic and often misleading pictures. The same goes for what they may tout as far as claims go for performance and ingredients. NEVER BELIEVE ANY SKINCARE COMPANY AT THEIR WORD! Hopefully with the next post, you'll be on your way to researching more of the truth for yourself.
So Remember . . .
Use the infamous example of silicone implants to realize that science, truth, legality, and product representation are certainly not on the same page! Especially in the health and skincare industry!