Friday, August 8, 2008

Queen bored of parabens nonsense

Another week, another 'attack' on parabens, the preservatives used in cosmetic (and many other) products.

I write attack in inverted commas because it's not really an attack when someone proves themselves unable to articulate a case against whatever it is they are supposed to be shooting down. The case is even less convincing when the person is promoting a book and, guess what, their own cosmetics' range.

I am referring to Kate Lock's book 'Confessions of an Eco-Shopper' which I do think sounds a great, and worthwhile, premise for a book and for life. It details her 'one-woman's mission to go green'. However, and this may not be her fault (but probably is given she wants to publicise her range of cosmetic products - can't wait to find what they're preserved with), the press have focused in on the old 'your cosmetics are toxic' rubbish rather than any of the rest of the book which presumably looks at every other aspect of our daily lives too.

This week, I read an extract from the book in the Daily Mail (the same Daily Mail which writes week-in week-out about miracle anti-ageing, anti-cellulite and anti-everything else creams which all contain parabens - but of course that can be overlooked if they really do work miracles) and then heard Kate Lock on LBC. Both times, the focus was cosmetics and parabens in particular. When asked what the problem with parabens was, she haltingly trotted out the discredited research that parabens were found in cancerous breast tissue.

This much-quoted research was carried out by Dr Philippa Darbre at Reading University in 2004. It found parabens in samples of cancerous breast tissue. The suggestion was that parabens could mimic the female hormone oestrogen which can drive the growth of tumours in human breast tissue. Darbre called for a review of the use of parabens in 'cosmetics applied to the breast area including deodorants'.

Quite apart from the fact that parabens have never been used in the majority of under-arm deodorants, the research was shown to be flawed because the researchers chose to ignore that they also found parabens in non-cancerous i.e. healthy 'control' samples of breast tissue.

I could bang on all day about this but may be accused of having a vested interest. So, why not read this,  a good, neutral, scientific article:

In it the journalist, James Randerson, quotes Dr Darbre as saying:

"Just because they (parabens) get into the body doesn't say they are going to cause breast cancer," added Darbre. Making the breast cancer link from these experiments was "scientifically inappropriate", she said.

He goes on to say that Darbre refuses to use or endorse products containing so-called 'natural' alternatives because scientists know little about the effects of these on the body either. "It might be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire," she said.

To be honest, I am not particularly interested in standing up for parabens today. The cosmetics' industry knows they are the safest, most effective preservatives around and, until something else is found which  betters them, they will continue to be used.

What irritates me is newpapers' laziness in trotting out this stuff week after week and the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they can launch a 'green' or 'organic' range of cosmetics these days based upon nothing but their sanctimonious avoidance of parabens (oh, and other ingredients they've demonised). Now that it is more widely known that the breast cancer research is flawed, they use other arguments, including that parabens are a major allergen for sensitive skin. Nonsense.  Perfume, essential oils and masking fragrances are the major culprits yet these abound in so-called natural cosmetics.

Most of the people making these new marvellous ranges have no experience (they are usually ex-beauty writers, aromatherapists or just mad hippies). They are using unproven preservative systems and are promoting other ingredients about which little is known. Our products have been around for 80 years and have been using parabens for at least 30 years. We constantly monitor what ingredients' suppliers have to offer and will only use those which are proven and have a track record. An unpreserved or inadequately-preserved product is far more dangerous than a preserved product. Bacteria from fingers, the air etc and transferred into eyes or broken skin can have horrid repercussions.

And it's not just me supporting parabens. Read Liz Earle's blog and FAQs. She is a well-respected beauty expert and owner of an extremely successful cosmetics' company. She has built her reputation not on scaring people into buying her products but on giving them good, effective products. She's not a multinational and she cares about her customers. This extends to wanting them to be able to make informed choices, not ones based on hysteria and fear.

Oh dear, this has turned into a rant. The fact is that this debate can only be good for the cosmetics' industry. Even though parabens are perfectly safe, it does prompt scientists and chemists to continue to test and trial other ingredients that might, one day, be proven to be even better. We are open to that possibility but we are not interested in all this hysteria.

So, what else is happening down here at Queen HQ? It's wet and windy and wood pigeons are gorging themselves on elderberries. Seaside Cream and Shampoo are the order of the day and we have run out of the latter so the stirrers are whirring into action. Time to get the orders out.

Have a good weekend!

The Queen Team

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