A few years ago in the world of personal care products, certain buzzwords started circulating in conversations, especially between mumz. “Are you using paraben-free products?” “Did you hear what they are saying about sulfates?” and the questions went on and on. All of a sudden, mumz were taking a good look at their own as well as their children’s personal care products, and it all became a little overwhelming and confusing!
Some products had parabens but were sulfate free and vice-versa, some had both, some had neither; which one to get?
Here is what you need to know without the long winded chemical names and the drama!
What are Parabens and are they evil?
Parabens are the most widely used chemical conservatives in cosmetics and personal care products, used to stop microbes like fungus and bacteria growing in your products. Over time, they have been linked to various forms of cancer in both men and women, but no studies to date have confirmed this – in fact, various health institutions around the world including Health Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have deemed that parabens are safe at current exposure levels. In 2005, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products confirmed that the use of methyl- and ethyl-paraben is safe as regulated. It is still gathering data on other parabens.
However, some sceptics argue that while levels in the products might be safe, lifelong exposure to these levels found in multiple products might not be so safe. The debate goes on and is yet inconclusive. There is no hard proof that parabens are unsafe at the levels they are used in commercial personal care products.
Now what are Sulfates and are they the bad guy?
Sulfates are chemicals that basically cause your personal care products to foam, and are found in shampoos, detergents and toothpastes to name but a few. The most common sulfates used are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and it is estimated that about 90% of shampoos alone have either one or the other.
In general, they have been shown to possibly cause irritation of the skin, eyes and scalp, and can affect the natural oil balance of your scalp and skin – however, the U.S FDA, European Union and Health Canada have deemed them safe to use.
There has been talk about sulfates potentially causing cancer, however, according to Ashley Lemire, a spokesperson for Health Canada, this is ‘a known myth’ and the miniscule amounts that are in shampoo have been proven not to cause cancer.
Sometimes, people opt for the option of “better safe than sorry,” especially when it comes to personal care products for your children, and there is a wide range of organic, paraben-free and sulfate-free hair, skin and body products available. Others might opt to stick to the products they know and love as there is no conclusive evidence that convinces them to do otherwise.