What ARE Parabens, anyway? - Sanctuary Spa & Skin Care

February 4, 2023

Paraben /ˈpærəˌbɛn/ (noun) :
Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

They’re bad. Avoid them. They –insert long, unpronounceable, scientific words and facts here– that inevitably cause cancer and other horrifying diseases or misfortunes, according to basically everyone. But what are they? Are they really bad? Will my life really end if I use that brand of Deodorant after yoga class?

Well, friends, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that there has been extensive research on the subject, and yours truly has done some digging to provide with you the best information possible. The bad news? Just like any other highly investigated topic, there are two sides to the story… each with very strong opinions. It’s only fair for us to present both sides of the case, so ladies and gents, court in session!


While parabens have been used as preservatives in our beauty products for ages, let’s begin in the 1990’s, when parabens were first deemed xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are agents that mimic estrogen in the body, possibly leading to endocrine disruption. In other words, they may interfere with the body’s natural hormone system. Endocrine disruption has been linked to breast cancer and other reproductive issues. British cancer researcher Philippa Darbre, Ph.D, conducted a study in which he found metabolites from parabens present in malignant breast tumors. This is one of the most highly referenced studies to the argument against parabens. And why wouldn’t it be? Anything potentially cancerous gives us a rightful scare, and we ought to know about it before innocently covering our faces with it.


“Paraben-free” products have become popular in recent times due to consumer concerns over the claims that they indeed cause cancer and other health issues. However, parabens have been widely used as a preservative to prevent bacteria growth since the 1950’s. According to dermatologist Fran E. Cook-Bolden, “Parabens have a long history of safe use, and that’s why they’re commonplace. New preservatives have less of a proven track record.” In fact, about 85% of our cosmetics have parabens in them. While the British study that found that metabolites of parabens were, in fact, present in malignant breast tumors, what they found was just that: metabolites of parabens, not parabens themselves. Parabens are broken down, metabolized, and excreted harmlessly. Furthermore, critics of this British study point out that noncancerous tissue from healthy breasts were not examined to see if parabens were also present there, so there is really no way to prove that the metabolites of parabens in the tumors caused the cancer.


As you can see, there is no way to prove that Parabens are guilty or not guilty of their accused crime. While there are some things that are black and white, the world of parabens is not one of them.

The bottom line is that all we can do is educate ourselves on the ingredients were are putting into our bodies. How many of us ignore those long lists of unpronounceable ingredients on our products, blissfully washing or eating whatever it may be, without having any idea what that ingredient even does or where it comes from? The lesson is this: education is key, especially when it comes to how we take care of our selves.

Hopefully you have learned something new about Parabens from this article and can come to an opinion about them that you are comfortable with. No matter what your personal opinion, the world of skin care is vast, and we have something for everyone here at Sanctuary Spa. Whether you feel safe using products with Parabens, or if you are the all-organic type, we can help you find a skin care regimen that meets your needs and goals!

For those of you on the Prosecuting side, ask about our organic skin care line and facial by Eminence Organics! Safe, natural, with no harmful chemicals or parabens to think about; the ingredients are sourced directly from the earth and nature around us.

Now… what will your choice be? Parabens, or Paraben-Free?

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