According to new research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, a common ingredient in conventional skin care products – like face cream – may be aging your skin prematurely.
The study looked at how methylparaben effected the skin of lab mice and found that mice exposed to high levels of this particular paraben experienced premature aging of their skin.
What the researchers discovered is that mice exposed to high levels of methylparaben lost collagen, the key to skin elasticity. Dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD, explains that this speeds up cell aging. Dr. Nazarian also says that mice are commonly used in animal tests, because their skin is similar to human skin.
This is only a preliminary study, and as we mention frequently animal research doesn’t always have a ton of bearing on how a product is going to impact humans. In fact, it’s often so inconclusive that many places are banning cosmetics testing on animals.
So take these results with a grain of salt. This definitely needs more study, and animal tests may not be the best way to go.
But premature aging is only one strike against methylparaben – and parabens in general – in our beauty products.
Beyond Premature Aging: Parabens and Our Health
Parabens are a common, inexpensive preservative used in cosmetics to extend shelf life.
They’re also hormone disruptors that behave like estrogen in our bodies. These chemicals don’t just sit on our skin when we apply a face cream, because skin is a porous organ. They absorb into our bodies, and they stay a while.
The parabens in cosmetics are different from naturally-occurring parabens in some fruits and vegetables. Synthetic parabens are not good for our health or for our skin. They’re linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin irritation at high levels.
That “high levels” thing is key. The premature aging study also looked at how high levels of parabens – more than you’d find in your favorite skin cream – impact skin health. Cosmetics-makers say that the levels of parabens in their products are much lower than the levels in these studies.
And they are. But here’s the thing.
Like I mentioned above, parabens are a cheap preservative. Companies need their products to have a long shelf life, and they want to keep prices low. That means that parabens are pretty ubiquitous in conventional beauty products. They’re not just in your wrinkle cream. They’re in most conventional soap, makeup, lotions, and serums. Most of us don’t just expose ourselves to parabens once a day, and all of those exposures add up.
Finding Paraben Free Cosmetics
Unfortunately, careful label reading is really the key to keeping parabens out of your cosmetics. But, as Liz has pointed out, paraben free doesn’t mean that a product isn’t free of other harmful ingredients. I’d recommend grabbing this Cosmetic Ingredients Guide to help you navigate the beauty aisle at a glance.
If you want to dig deeper, download the EWG SkinDeep app for your smart phone. This searchable database ranks cosmetics for safety using a traffic light rating system that’s easy to interpret at a glance, as well.
I did a little bit of digging and found some good cruelty free face products that are also paraben free and got a green light from SkinDeep:
– L’uvalla Anti-Wrinkle Cream gets a 1 on the EWG scale.
– Primal Life Organics products all get the green light. They make face washes and sun screens.
– Afterglow Cosmetics foundation rates a two on their scale.
– Physician’s Formula BB cream gets a 1.
Note: Not all of the products on this list are Leaping Bunny certified, but I did my research to make sure that they’re cruelty free. Not every company springs for that third-party certification, unfortunately.
Of course, you can also make your own DIY beauty products to help you kick parabens and other questionable ingredients to the curb. Here are some resources, if you’d rather go the DIY route:
– Grab this guide to DIY winter beauty recipes.
– Try Leah’s miracle DIY moisturizer for face and body.
– Make your own face mask from edible ingredients.
– Replace your acne products with homemade acne-fighting thyme recipes.
Image Credit: Face Cream photo via Shutterstock