Removal of parabens from skincare could be doing more harm than good

The majority of skincare scare stories that make tabloid headlines are based on questionable research, which rarely takes into account all the testing that goes into development of the products.

So it was with some scepticism that I read about a spike in contact allergy caused by MI and MCI preservatives. However, while it’s clear that the majority of brands using these preservatives keep them at extremely low levels, their increased use throws up a wider industry issue.

Many brands only reintroduced these preservatives relatively recently following studies linking parabens to cancer. Although most product houses agree those studies were flawed and a link has never been proven, several bowed to consumer pressure and replaced parabens with alternatives such as MI and MCI, despite existing, less controversial, research that linked these replacements to allergies.

As Environ founder Dr Des Fernandes put it when I spoke to him about the issue last year, “brands were faced with the problem, do they make a product for ignorant people who think things are not good for them or do they make the best product you can to get the results people want?”.

Because beauty is a luxury not a medical necessity, product formulators and indeed beauty therapists are often not recognised as the experts they are. Of course the over-inflated claims of some “miracle” consumer products have not helped the cause but it's time that true product formulation experts got the respect they deserve.

I learned from some of the best this month, first with a visit to some groundbreaking marine ingredient research labs at Phytomer’s French headquarters then through interviewing one of the original nail product development experts, Orly founder Jeff Pink, who is still just as passionate about treatment formulas as when he started out in the ’70s.

With teams like these behind the brands, and therapists who know the anatomy of the skin as well as most doctors, the professional beauty industry will always be the driver of both innovation and safety.