Every 10 years CIR experts gather to re-open the report on parabens and analyze the latest studies to see if their recommendations should be adjusted. In 2008 they have already concluded that parabens are safe to use in cosmetic, despite certain controversial studies that appeared to be poorly designed. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the speculations, and EU made some adjustments to their recommendations in 2012.
The most recent review has just been made public after the Thanksgiving. Long story short: after reviewing the most recent data, CIR once again confirmed that there is no reason to worry about current usage of parabens in cosmetics.
Here is one expert’s comment that sums it up: “They are by far the safest preservative system we have; bar none.”
Although at Ostelia we currently don’t use parabens, this decision was driven not by the safety concerns of parabens per se, but as a response to the public concerns and the fact that our skin care products are designed to be delivered to the customers very quickly and we can use less efficacious preservatives. However, there are plenty of products that are sold and bought in stores, including in rural areas, and people shouldn’t feel like they are compromising their safety due to the lack of options. That’s why we were impatiently waiting for the report to be published to see if any new concerns will come up.
The committee had less formal meetings in 2012 when the EU made adjustments to the recommended usage of parabens and all the related discussions are captured in protocols available to the public: https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/Parabens.pdf It is amazing that we have this opportunity to look behind the curtain and see what exactly and how is being discussed.
We loved this part in particular where US experts were wondering where the EU’s recommendation to limit the total usage of parabens to 0.8 came up from: DR. STEINBURG: just one comment on behalf of industry. When they propose this, this .8 far exceeds the solubility of all the parabens in water total. Industry just felt it didn’t make any sense to argue a point in which whether they said .8 or .6 was academic, because the most you can get into water is about .4 of all the total parabens together. They’re just not that soluble.
It is also very interesting to read how experts admit they have a lot of pressure from NGOs and need to be extremely thorough and careful in whatever recommendation they come up with. Every assumption and data point is re-validated (skin penetration, total exposure (including parabens in food), studies design and validity, metabolic differences in kids etc.) Nothing seems to get swept under the carpet.
Now, will this decision by CIR change the public perception of parabens? The time will tell, however our hope is that in the meantime customers don’t end up being exposed to products with inefficient preservatives or lack of thereof. Remember, the alternative to preservatives are products filled with bacteria, yeast and mold.