PABA and Paraben: What Are They, and Why Should You Avoid Them?

dermatologist Clermont fl

PABA and paraben are two ingredients found in sunscreen that have become extremely controversial over the years.  Many people are now reading the labels to make sure their products do not contain either of the two.  You may ask yourself what are these harmful additives, and why shouldn’t I use them? Here’s a little information to make it a little bit clearer for you:

So, what is PABA? It stands for Para Amino Benzoic Acid, and it is an antioxidant found in vitamin B complex and also many sunscreens that absorb UV light.  PABA helps effectively screen out the sun’s burning rays, although it does not aid in screening out skin cancer causing rays.  Now, you may ask yourself, what could be so bad about an ingredient that performs this function?  Through the years, it has been discovered that many people were developing photo-allergic reactions.  These allergy symptoms being so severe, that there was a ban in many countries on PABA based sunscreens.  Some of these symptoms include acne, dark red spots, burning and itching, and painful pus-filled blisters on follicles.  However, these sunscreens are still deemed safe to use on people that do not have a PABA allergy.  If you aren’t sure whether or not you have a PABA allergy,  you should try to steer clear of sunscreens and products that may contain it.

Parabens are a class of chemicals used specifically as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.  They are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties.  However, these additives are becoming increasingly controversial, due to the fact that they have been found in breast cancer tumors.  Parabens have been known to slightly mimic estrogen, a hormone known to play a role in breast cancer development, although no direct link between parabens and cancer have been established.  Even though the direct connection has not been truly established, many recommend trying to buy as many Paraben-free products that are readily available such as sunscreens, deodorants, shampoos, make-up, etc.

Most sunscreens have become PABA and paraben free over the last few years. However, it is always a good idea to double check the label, just to be sure. Try to find the most natural sunscreen available to help prevent any question of a doubt. For more information check out these links. 

- Dr. Gutierrez, MD