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Parabens - What are they and how do they Impact the Environment?

Parabens are most commonly found in beauty and skincare products and are partially responsible for killing off coral.

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Parabens - What are they and how do they Impact the Environment?

Phoebe McCarthy

The way we consume beauty products has changed. Brands are investing more in product innovation to meet customer demand, and there is an increasing awareness of the connection between the products we consume and their impact on the environment, our health and wellbeing - meaning in this digital age, consumers demand more from their beauty products.  

There is an increase in natural and personalized beauty products that are “biodegradable”, “cruelty-free” and “vegan”. However there remain a number of ingredients commonly used in skincare and cosmetics that are not so good for both you and the environment. “Parabens” is a word that most of us will recognise, but what are parabens? And why are they potentially bad for the environment?

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What are Parabens?

Parbens or para-hydroxybenzoic acids are synthetically produced compounds that emerged sometime in the 1950s. Parabens are a cheap ingredient used to extend the shelf life of products including cosmetics, cleaning products and some processed foods by preventing the growth of mould and bacteria. Parabens can extend the shelf life of products for several months or even years.

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Where are Parabens Found?

Parabens are most commonly found in beauty and skincare products including deodorants, body creams, shaving creams, lipsticks, shampoos, body washes and body scrubs. Parabens can be labelled under different names including methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.

Why are Synthetic Parabens Bad for the Environment?

An article in National Geographic demonstrated evidence that parabens are partially responsible for killing off coral. A growing number of studies indicate parabens are a hormone disruptor in dolphins and other marine species and a report by the Environmental International journal showed that parabens have been found in the tissues of marine organisms, bears, and birds which shows us that this environmental contaminant actually works its way from our water systems into the bodies of wildlife species in the ocean and on land.

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It is also worth mentioning the European Union recently placed some restrictions on the parabens allowed in cosmetic formulations; to prohibit the use of isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben, and pentylparaben in cosmetics and also lowered the maximum concentration allowed for propylparaben and butylparaben, and prohibited their use in products for children. Although there is no conclusive evidence that parabens are detrimental to human health, there have been some reports of a possible link to breast cancer. 

Attitudes to beauty and skincare products continue to evolve. There are plenty of brands using alternative natural preservatives that are better for the environment and wildlife.   CARMA partners with brands who create plant-based and natural beauty and skincare solutions that resonate with the modern consumer.

Our beauty brands will be available on our Online Vegan Marketplace this Autumn 2019. 

 Shop vegan and ethical with CARMA. Sign up for our latest updates ahead of our launch here.