CHENNAI: On Christmas last year, a little package came knocking at my door. It was Valerie in a basket (who looked more like a rodent than a puppy), and I fell in love. Fast forward six months, I’m still in love, and she finally looks like a dog albeit a little insane and absolutely adorable.
It doesn’t take her much to get excited a walk, a drive, playtime, dinnertime, the sound of a bag opening, the sense that someone, somewhere is eating French Fries. She also gets particularly excited when it’s time to get ready. She loves to watch and often waits by the door, hoping she’ll get a chance to sample whatever I’ve applied on my skin post shower. With honest attempts, she tries to contribute to my skincare by routinely licking my face. Sometimes she focuses on my pigmentation spots, although I can’t tell if that is intentional or not as yet.
Although heartwarming, this activity is particularly worrying when done post a potentially “toxin-filled” skincare regimen.
After frantic calls to the vet (“HELP! My dog ate my retinol, will she be fine? What should I do?) and a cursory Google search — I was told by both parties in no uncertain terms to stop being a helicopter mom and relax. It’s only harmful if she makers her way into an entire bottle!
Quantities matter. While that was certainly reassuring for the moment, it got me thinking: Isn’t it essentially the same with humans vs. parabens?
Parabens get such a bad rep, with little to no reason. The dose of parabens given to rats (yes, the tests were initially done on rats) was 4,000 times higher than those used in cosmetics.
Anything in those quantities would be harmful, especially when ingested orally. Interestingly, even the authors of this study and the one after, stated that the presence of parabens didn’t prove they were the cause of any cancerous growths. Too much of anything is toxic!
The percentage of preservatives in a cosmetic formulation is minuscule, with 0.5% of butylparaben typically present in a moisturiser, out of which 4% penetrates the skin, at best. It certainly helps that enzymes in your skin break these down into other substances, and your body gets rid of them for you.
While there are alternatives to parabens, they are often harsher and more controversial, like formaldehydes. Then you have the gentle ones that protect either against bacteria, or fungi, not both. They also don’t fare particularly well during stability testing, so I don’t know about you, but I won’t be switching anytime soon.
Parabens are safe. They are your friends, and are certainly less dangerous than poorly or non-preserved skincare products which run the risk of contamination each time you dip your unwashed fingers into a jar of moisturiser.
On that note, honest attempts will be made to keep Valerie out of my beauty cabinets, and Google searches will be limited to: helicopter dog mom separation anxiety. Oh well, at least we have some fun skincare to get us through!
SAUMYA R CHAWLA
Beauty behaviour with a side of dessert