Do you ever worry about that giant list of chemicals at the back of your personal care/cosmetic products? Sometimes it seems like the chemical ingredients list just keeps getting longer and longer. However, the more you compare the lists on the back of products, the more you will find that there are similarities between the chemicals used. The one to look out for is p-hydroxybenzoic acid, otherwise called “paraben”!
The “paraben” ingredient in your products purpose is to act as a preservative because of its antimicrobial properties. From a scientific standpoint, they exhibit more antimicrobial properties with increasing chemical chain length of the alkyl group. This is why can see the terms “methyl, ethyl, buytl, benzyl, isopropyl” etc. in front of the term “paraben”. In cosmetics, parabens are only permitted in concentrations up to 1%, and in food up to 0.1%.
The reason we should be concerned about parabens is because there is at least one paraben ingredient in approximately 90% of cosmetic and personal care products. When considering that in 1995 (17 years ago!!) parabens were used in 99% of all leave- on products and 77% of rince-off cosmetics, you can only imagine the quantities of parabens in our products today. Too much of anything is not good for the body, and when considering that limited long term studies have been done on humans describing the effects of parabens, it can be quite daunting. Although methylparaben is not carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic, all parabens can be absorbed through the skin and migrate into the bloodstream.
Look for methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben, propylparaben in your products. Since so many products today have these ingredients, try to minimize your use. If possible, discard these products.
What’s interesting is that some lines of moisturizers (i.e. Aveeno), may have four products out of five that contain parabens and that fifth product doesn’t. So it is possible, you just got to read the back of the bottle.
Scary Science – PARABENS IN BREAST TUMOURS:
In a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology parabens were found to be present in human breast tumors!!!Although it is not clear whether the parabens migrated into the tumors before or after they were formed, it does raise some serious concern about parabens. The scientists analyzed 20 human breast tumors and found the mean concentration of parabens in the tumors to be 20.6 ± 4.2 ng g-1 tissue.
Currently, The Food and Drug Administration is conducting its own research to ascertain the health implications (Endocrine Disruptor Knowledge Base, http://edkb.fda.gov/index.html ). Nevertheless, parabens are quickly absorbed, metabolized, and excreted, and they appear to be nontoxic, based on acute, subchronic, and chronic studies in rodents (Food Chem. Toxicol.2005;43:985-1015). Comparison of individual parabens showed that methylparaben was present at the highest level and represents 62% of the total paraben recovered in the extractions.
(1) Rastogi SC, Schouten A, De Kruijf N, Weijland JW. 1995. Contents of methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl- and benzylparaben in cosmetic products. Contact Dermat. 32: 28–30.
(2) Elder RL. 1984. Final report on the safety assessment of methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. J. Ame. Coll. Toxicol. 3: 147–209.
(3) Darbre PD, Aljarrah A, Miller, WR, Coldham NG, Sauer MJ, Pope G. 2004. Concentrations of Parabens inhuman Breast Tumours. J. Appl. Toxicol. 24, 5-13.