Parabens are a widely used chemical preservative ingredient found in many cosmetic products from shampoos to toothpaste. So why do many people get upset when they see this ingredient in their skincare? The internet is timeless, one of the realities of the internet is that OLD, solved issues can easily be stirred up again and recirculated, years later.
The start of such a panic arose in a study in the UK stating they found parabens in breast tissue and that it had an estrogen-like activity when it was injected into lab rats. Also of note the estrogen-like activity was quite weak: about the same as eating a small portion of soybeans.
The study did not hold up on paper. It was published in 2004 and set off a flurry knee-jerk reaction in the popular press (alarmist headlines sell!!) where consumers have driven this concern to the point where skincare companies have removed parabens from there products due to public pressure.
Scientists, however took a different view of this study, pointing out the limitations and flaws of research as follows:
- The study was small – samples were taken from only 20 women
- There were NO controls (normal breast tissue was not investigated for comparison)
- No other body tissue was examined, parabens are fat soluble, meaning they could exist in ANY area of the body that contains fat cells, since they inhibit growth of fungi and bacteria this could be a good thing.
- Vitamins A, E and D were found in breast tumors along with calcium, sodium, potassium and a raft of other compounds but no one is suggesting that these cause cancer.
As flawed as this study was, it raised a legitimate question “Whether there is a link between Parabens and Cancer incidence” So for about 4 years animal and human studies were conducted by numerous labs, using oral and topical applications. In 2008 the data was published in the “International Journal of Toxicology” this exhaustive review by an expert committee found that parabens, even in high doses, are not carcinogenic, DO NOT accumulate in the blood or tissues, and pose no significant health risk. The panel concluded the following:
“Parabens do not accumulate in the body, serum concentrations of parabens, even after intravenous administration, quickly decline and remain low. Acute toxicity studies in animals indicate that parabens are not significantly toxic by various routes administrated”
We hope this helps next time the conversation arises on Parabens and their safety – knowledge is power!!