Parabens (methyl-, butyl-) are used as preservatives and can be hidden under the "fragrance" ingredient in most commercial cosmetic products. They also mimic estrogen behaviour and there have been studies questioning their safety.
The problem is that parabens easily penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream and the European Commission of Endocrine Disruption categorize them as a 1 priority as parabens discrupt hormonal function.
But what if they are "derived" from food? What if they are labeled "food grade"- that makes them safe, right? It would appear that parabens also appear in low levels in certain foods, so if we eat it, it should be safe.... right?
Lush makes the connection that parabens are found in certain foods like blueberries and some of their customers are under the impression that they actually derive their parabens from berries.
Well... there's arsenic in apple seeds, but that doesn't make it safe. Just saying.
The problem with this reasoning, other than the fact that just because it's naturally derived doesn't automatically mean it's safe, is that parabens in food is not the same thing as parabens in cosmetics.
1. The paraben levels in food are low and are easily metabolized through our digestive system that is well equipped to handle naturally occurring levels (or we'd all have died off from cancer thousands of years ago...). Our stomach acids are hardcore, and often destroy most harmful substances prior to reaching our bloodstream.
2. However, when applied directly to the skin, parabens are easily absorbed and enter our bloodstream intact. This results in a higher probability that they may affect hormonal function.
3. Finally, the studies on paraben safety haven't looked at the interaction between the dozens of products containing different parabens that enter our bodies through cosmetics. According to David Suzuki, some studies show that women are exposed to over 50 mg of parabens per day from cosmetics. Even if each individual product has "low" levels, combined they add up.
So... the next time a company tries to sell you the safety of their "naturally derived parabens"- politely inform them to eat some apple seeds...