For a while now I’ve been working on reformulating our sugar scrubs so they are paraben free, and I finally have them ready. It’s ironic that this change is happening in October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month; an experiment conducted in the UK in 2004 found parabens in breast tumors, and led many to link paraben preservatives with breast cancer. In the years since, lots of beauty products companies have felt the pressure to find alternative preservatives for their products. You can add us to the list: with the addition of a paraben-free bath gel last spring and sugar scrub this month, our entire line of products is now paraben-free.

I don’t want to give the impression that our products were unsafe before because they contained parabens, or that other companies’ products are unsafe if they still contain them. I’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and after reading research and opinions I still have mixed feelings about parabens. There are consumer advocate groups in the U.S. who are very vocal about potentially harmful ingredients in cosmetics. These folks hold the cosmetics industry in Europe as an example, since they have much stricter rules about cosmetics and beauty products than we do here. Interestingly enough, parabens are still considered safe in Europe; while they forbid the use of CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction), parabens are not on that list. Colipa, The European Cosmetics Association, lists parabens on its Ingredients Under Discussion” with the statement, “Scientific safety studies have shown that parabens pose no problem for human health when used in cosmetics. They are listed in the Cosmetics Directive as approved preservatives.”

The American Cancer Society lists parabens under the category of “Factors with uncertain, controversial, or unproven effect on breast cancer risk” in their list of Risk Factors for Breast Cancer. The National Cancer Institute, as well as the FDA, also do not consider parabens to be health hazards. Kayla Fioravanti from Essential Wholesale has blogged about parabens in detail on several occasions: her initial discussion answers a lot of paraben questions, while a follow-up blog states the positions of major cancer and health organizations such as the FDA and National Cancer Institute. The bottom line for all of these organizations, in the U.S. and Europe, is that parabens are still considered safe in cosmetics and beauty products.

So why change? I wrote about change when we reformulated our lip balms to change our colorants. I’ve slowly been increasing the natural and organic flavorings used in our balms, too. These changes are meant to improve our products, to include more healthful and soothing ingredients and remove anything that could cause allergic reaction. We change to reflect new research and information about our ingredients, but we also change in response to our customers. Even if there isn’t scientific proof that parabens cause cancer, some of our customers are nervous about it, and we can change that. I hope that changing to paraben-free products will help some of you feel more comfortable. Please let me know if you have any questions about this change, and feel free to leave your comments below.