About Author Marko Visic, M.Pharm.(Master’s in Pharmacy) is a professional pharmacist with years of experience, and is very passionate about truly natural and healthy products.
Go-Nayked has shined the light on the deceiving ‘natural’ ingredients… in this post we take a look at Paraben.
In the popular book and movie series, Harry Potter, the main bad guy is referred to often as the one who must not be named. Like Lord Voldemort many of us learned to fear “Paraben” because of the popular marketing tag line ‘Paraben free’. Like Mr Voldemort the true power comes from both identifying and facing the evil one. In this aspect let’s take a look at Paraben.
What is Paraben?
Parabens in cosmetics industry are foremost used as preservatives. As the FDA explains: “Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to protect them against microbial growth, both to protect consumers and to maintain product integrity.”
In short, preservatives such as parabens are not there to make your skin healthy or your hair shine. They are there to kill bacteria that might infect the shampoo or lotion. Think of parabens as antibiotics for cosmetics and much like real antibiotics their use has been over done. In addition parabens have been identified as hormone disrupters that negatively impact your well being. Well, the ingredients I’m looking for in my cosmetics is what will make my skin and hair healthier and better looking.
Parabens and Benzene
The chemical design of parabens cause the substance to bond with human hormones. It’s because a paraben molecule has a benzene ring and so do many human hormones. It is difficult for hormone receptors to differentiate between a real hormone and a paraben. Therefore all parabens are hormone disrupters! (Some evidence suggests that parabens are a factor in causing cancer.)
Parabens are the most widely occurring preservatives and it is hard to imagine cosmetics without them. Being so vital and having little alternatives, a heated debate is currently under way about how to minimize the risk of parabens to humans.
Usually cosmetic companies are aware of the parabens scare and explicitly note ‘parabens free’ on the label in order to increase sales.
Parabens Free… Not Really
However, there are times when parabens are added to your favorite shampoo or lotion but the label reads ‘paraben free’. Not shocking, but how is it possible? One method is the use of alternative parabens and their “natural” name… “Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract”.
What is Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract (JHE)
The name sounds very healthy, right? Honey is good, Japan is good, thus Japanese Honeysuckle Extract must be good as well… or the train of thought for the average consumer does. Well, It is known that JHE and parabens are basically the same thing. Let’s take a look at their chemical structures.
Methyl Paraben (Synthetic) Japanese Honeysuckle Extract (Natural)
As you can see from the figures, JHE is ‘chemically’ a paraben. The most significant difference is that JHE occurs in nature and parabens are synthesized in a laboratory. Nonetheless, because it is not synthesized in a laboratory and is of natural origin, producers can add JHE to any product and call it ‘parabens free’. (Note: Some say JHE should still not be called a ‘paraben’ –it’s controversial, but for now we won’t go that deep.)
Every preservative has some degree of toxic action and JHE is not an exception. Paraben-like ingredients such as JHE are known as mild hormone disruptors.
Pick Your Poison: Lab Synthesized JHE (Plantservative)
‘Plantservative’ is a highly refined, concentrated and processed ingredient made from the extract JHE. There is a major difference between using JHE or making a highly refined version of the specific paraben like compounds in it. Manufacturers are playing on the ‘natural’ card here but processing a natural ingredient in a laboratory requires organic solvents such as ethanol and benzene… this is where the game changes.
How do you identify this product on packaging? You might find ‘Plantservative’ as a preservative or more than likely you find it labeled Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.
What Can You Do?
Well…… Not much. We don’t live in a fantasy world where cosmetics could exist without preservatives. It is a vital ingredient and could thus not be completely avoided. The lesson is: the more you learn, the safer you can stay. Now you know how misleading ‘paraben free’ labels can be, and what we should think when looking at ‘JHE’ or ‘Plantservative’! (We recommend products with Vitamin E or grapefruit extract as preservatives.)
The important piece to take away is just because a product is “natural” does not make it good… everything has two sides. Just like everything natural is not good (think of cobra’s venom), everything scary is not bad. Paraben like compounds are even found in everyday food! (Carrots, strawberries and Japanese Honeysuckle for example contain the paraben like compound Benzoic Acid that Scientists have used in order to create their cousins synthetic parabens and we wouldn’t hesitate stating that their natural sources are both healthy, and delicious.)
There’s a LOT of stuff we take into consideration when we recommend a product -Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract or the ingredients list are merely a part of many factors we look at. And that’s why we are here for you discover the products we have cleared for your use in our marketplace by clicking here