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Myth busting: parabens and sulfates!

November 12, 2017

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Myth busting: parabens and sulfates!

12 Nov 2017

You may have noticed that a lot of beauty products are now labelled as ‘paraben free’ or ‘sulfate free’, but what does this mean and are these bad for your health? If you look at my products these are all free from parabens and sulfates, but through reading this you will really get to appreciate what this means for you and your skin.


What are they?


Parabens are a group of chemicals that have been widely used since the 1950's to prevent bacteria and they act to preserve deodorants, lotions, lipsticks, shampoos and scrubs just to name a few. There are six types of parabens used commonly: methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutylparabens. They all work to extend the shelf life of beauty products!


Sulfates are cleansing and foaming agents that can be found in toothpaste, shampoos, body washes and also soap! Sulfates have been found to break down proteins, this can lead to degenerative effect on the cell membranes. These have been found to leave residue in the heart, lungs and brain. Sulfates can cause many problems for your hair including drying, irritating your scalp, fading colours and even hair loss.


What some beauty companies are doing is swapping sulfate free products for other chemicals, which can sometimes be worse! To avoid this its best to use products that use fruit or vegetable-based cleansing ingredients.


So far there is no scientific evidence to prove that parabens have a direct link to cancer. In 2004, a British study found traces of 5 parabens in the breast tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied. The study did not prove that parabens can cause cancer but showed that parabens penetrate the skin and stay in the tissue. Various other studies have shown that some parabens can replicate the estrogen hormone in the body’s cells, estrogen activity is associated with certain forms of breast cancer and parabens have been found present in breast tumours.


EU Law allows the use of parabens in cosmetics, and one or several of them can be present in any given product. The maximum total concentration allowed in these products is 8g of parabens per kg of cosmetic product, with no single paraben having a higher concentration than 4g. In a review of the most up-to-date scientific information, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety confirmed that for smaller paraben molecules such as methyl- and ethyl paraben the limit is considered safe. For the longer paraben molecule propyl- and butyl paraben the SCCS recommend lowering the limit in 2015. For the other parabens which are less used (isopropyl-, isobutyl-, and phenylparaben) there is not much information available and potential risk is hard to calculate.


I’d rather not take a chance and will all my products I have adopted the ‘safe not sorry’ route!


How to spot these ingredients in labels?


The most common types of parabens will have ‘paraben’ in their name, such as butyparaben, methylparaben, proplyparaben and alkyl parahydroxy benzoates.


Sulfate is the ingredient that causes shampoos to lather up! If your shampoo is doing this, then bingo you have a sulfate! Also, the word ‘sulfate’ will be evident in the label.




Leave-on products such as lotions give you a large dose than rinse-off products like shampoos. The lower the concentration of parabens in any product, the lesser the risk.


If you would like to stay away from product that contain parabens, look for ingredients such as ethyhexylglycerine (this is plant based) or phenoxyethanol (naturally derived ether alcohol).


We at Light Up Skincare would like to take the alternative and not use parabens at all, this is because we know that bacteria grow in water and this is the reason why we don’t use water in our products.


By avoiding water, we are avoiding the questionable parabens. We prefer to use natural alternatives like lavender in our products.


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