What are parabens?
Parabens are synthetic preservatives used in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, moisturizers and shampoos. Common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Parabens allow skin care products to survive for months or even years in your medicine cabinet; however, they also enter your body through your skin when you use these products.
Parabens are cost-effective and provide protection against microorganisms for an extended period of time. Methyl, propyl and butyl paraben are the forms most frequently used in beauty products. In recent years, concern has increased as to their role in producing potentially serious health side effects.
Why are parabens used in cosmetics?
Parabens protect cosmetics against contamination and spoilage. They are prevalent in products such as shampoo, toothpaste, makeup, self-tanner, moisturizers, deodorants, antiperspirants and shaving cream. Remember that all ingredients that are used must be listed on your cosmetics packaging. To easily know if your product contains parabens, scan the ingredient list for the “paraben” suffix. Methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-, isopropyl- and isobutyl-paraben, are the common parabens used in cosmetics.
Cosmetics are vulnerable to bacterial proliferation and fungi growth, which contaminate the product and may harm health. Parabens defend against the growth of harmful microorganisms, protecting the product from spoilage and giving it an extended shelf life. You are also exposed to parabens in food products. They are typically used as preservatives in meat products, cereals, chips, nuts, soft drinks and sweets, among others. Methyl and propyl parabens are the most commonly used parabens in food.
Are parabens harmful?
Parabens have the ability to mimic hormones in the body and disrupt functions of the endocrine system. However, the FDA has declared these substances safe to be used in cosmetics.
Breast cancer: Parabens can mimic estrogen and disrupt the body’s hormone system. Cornell University reports that a high lifelong exposure to estrogen can increase breast cancer risk. Estrogen, and synthetic chemicals that act like estrogen, play a role in stimulating the division of breast cells and affect other hormones that stimulate breast cell division. Your body does not easily break down synthetic estrogen, and it can accumulate in fat cells, including breast tissue. In 2004, a study by the University of Reading in the United Kingdom found concentrations of parabens, particularly methylparaben, in human breast tumors. The study examined only the presence of parabens in the tumors but did not determine that they were the cause of the tumors.
Early Puberty: The ability of parabens to mimic other hormones makes them endocrine disruptors. These are substances that adversely affect the endocrine system. The endocrine system releases hormones into the bloodstream and is involved in a number of functions related to reproduction, waste elimination, digestion and metabolism. Endocrine disruptors such as parabens can lead to early puberty in adolescent girls and boys. Endocrinologists have observed the average age of puberty decreasing in the past several decades and have seen girls as young as eight exhibit breast development. Endocrine disruptors can also lead to testicular enlargement and breast development in young boys.
Decreased Sperm Levels: Parabens can also adversely affect the male reproductive system. In a study by the Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health, researchers administered parabens to three-week-old rats. After four weeks, researchers examined the rats and found their sperm production significantly decreased in relation to the amount of parabens they had received. The rats who received the highest dose of parabens, which was consistent with the daily acceptable intake of parabens in Europe and Japan, showed a significant decrease in sperm concentration.
Investigation into parabens
The FDA participated in an assessment of the safety of parabens by a group called the Cosmetic Ingredient Review in 1984. They even had a reassessment in 2005. The FDA is a non-voting member of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. Both assessments concluded that parabens pose no health risk, due to the low doses used in consumer products and minimal estrogen-like properties. As of June 2010, the FDA believes that parabens in cosmetics and personal care products are safe for consumers. The agency will continue to review any new data regarding the safety of parabens. In addition, as of 2013, the American Cancer Society asserts “there are no clear health risks from parabens in food, drugs, cosmetics, and skin care products.”
Products without parabens
Conscientious cosmetics brands have started becoming “paraben free.” This is helping to call attention to the concerns over paraben use. MDSUN is a leading skin care brand that is paraben free. As you can see on their site before even purchasing the products, the large majority of their products state clearly that they are paraben free. Finding brands that are on the leading edge of research such as this is hard to do. With MDSUN you will always know that the products you are using are safe and healthy for you.