Ingredient of the Week

a Salon Naturals blog

Why are Parabens Still in Use?

Parabens have been used as a microbial preservative since the early 1920’s.  For many years, they have been strongly suspected as having the potential to create health problems, yet they are more commonly used in today’s manufacturing world than ever before.  It is estimated that tens of thousands of cosmetic, personal care products, foods and pharmaceuticals contain this toxic ingredient. 

There are several different names by which parabens can be identified.  The most common start with propyl, butyl, methy, ethyl, or iso and in most cases, all of these end with “paraben.”  However, new INCI names for ingredients are often created when public concern for a commonly used ingredient name grows to a level that affects buying habits.  With this in mind, always conduct a search for unfamiliar ingredients at www.cosmeticdatabase.com to ensure their safety.

Researchers from England recently discovered the presence of parabens in eighteen of twenty samples of breast tumors tested.  Furthermore, these same tests strongly indicate that the origin could, with a reasonable degree of certainty, be traced to absorption into the body through a topically applied product.

For many years, the scientific community dismissed the possible link between parabens and breast cancer.  This theory was widely considered to be the self-induced worry of irrational and paranoid minds.  Yet in 1998, it was firmly and conclusively established that parabens create estrogenic-type activities in not only mice and rats in a lab setting, but also in human breast cancer cells.   The importance of this discovery is that the vast majority of breast cancers respond to estrogen.  Suddenly, scientists began giving more serious consideration to the link between parabens and breast cancer in women.

These types of discoveries have led to significant and potentially lifesaving conclusions.  Even prior to these scientific realizations, it was known that parabens were easily absorbed by the body.  However, the assumption was made that they were slowly eliminated from the system through the urine.  The discovery of intact parabens in tumor tissue has completely altered how these chemicals must be viewed.  Scientists now realize that parabens are not only absorbed when present in products applied topically, but they have the potential to accumulate in breast tissue in particular.

It is also notable that consumption of foods containing parabens poses less risk to the health of the body than the use of products intended for the skin.  Parabens contained in food are degraded and lose their most harmful characteristics during the digestive process.

Common defenses for the use of parabens in personal care products always include the fact that parabens make up only a very small percentage of any given formulation.  While on the surface, this truth may seem to dilute the argument against parabens, it ignores several important considerations.  Even twelve years after these important scientific discoveries, a very high percentage of common personal care products contain one or more parabens.  The average woman uses no fewer than a dozen products on a daily basis.  The presence of this cumulative usage has the potential to bring exposure levels far beyond any that could be considered benign or meaningless. 

Cosmetics and personal care products require the inclusion of preservatives in their formulas to protect against the growth of bacteria, which in itself would create significant health risks.  While there are a handful of products that are preservative free or use only natural preservative systems, these typically require refrigeration and still have only a very short shelf-life.  That noted, manufacturers have a wide range of options in selecting the preservatives used in their products.  The evidence against parabens is overwhelming and consumers should insist on products that use other, less toxic preservatives in their formulations.

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April 8, 2010 - Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yucky! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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