Monday, May 27, 2013

All about Parabens

Hi everyone! I hope everything is going well for you guys! I decided to write up a small post about parabens, because I feel like there is some misinformation out there about them. If you have any comments or if you disagree with something I say, please let me know! (: I have all my sources listed at the bottom of the post, please feel free to read them! More after the jump, as always.

What are parabens?
To paraphrase heavily from my sources, parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics, foods, pharmeceuticals, and other household goods; the most common ones are methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. They keep products free of bacteria, mold, and fungi that would otherwise spoil the product, potentially causing an infection. They are found naturally in plants and animals, but can also be manmade.

Why do people avoid them?
This is a possible concern because studies have shown that parabens have weak estrogen-like properties. Estrogen is a female hormone known to cause breast cells (both normal and cancerous) to grow and divide. Some conditions that increase the body's exposure to estrogen (like not having children, late menopause, obesity, etc.) have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. As you will see, there is no evidence behind the connection between parabens and breast cancer.

The only other issue I can think of is that some people can have a sensitivity to parabens due to eczema, which can irritate their skin. This is relatively rare, but perfectly legitimate. Most people don't avoid parabens for that though!

Are they actually bad for you?

The original study which started the controvery was found the link between parabens and deodorant, and had a number of important deficiencies in the study design, including:
1) lack of control tissue when measuring concentrations of parabens in breast tumours;
2) blank samples clearly contaminated with parabens;
3) high variability in individual blank values;
4) no study of the general therapeutic history of the tissue donors and no mention of the paraben-containing anti-cancer drugs the patients were using;
5) no study of donors' exposure to consumer products containing parabens;

Other points to consider:
(i) the most frequently occurring paraben was the methyl ester, which is shown to have the lowest estrogenic activity in the in vitro and in vivo estrogenicity studies;
(ii) existing epidemiological data indicate the absence of an association between underarm cosmetics and breast cancer;
(iii) the majority of underarm cosmetics do not contain parabens as preservatives (> 98%)
Additionally, the authors of the study have clearly stated that they did not have the intention to prove such a link.

To quote Australia's Department of Health and Aging, which has some of the most stringent cosmetic regulatory system in the world, "The ‘Opinion on the Safety Evaluation of Parabens’released by the SCCP in 2005 states that, based on acute and chronic toxicity studies in rats, dogs and mice, parabens have been proven to be nontoxic, not carcinogenic, not genotoxic nor co-carcinogenic, and not teratogenic. Parabens rarely sensitize but may provoke a response when applied to eczematous skin. Sensitized patients can often tolerate parabens in cosmetics applied to normal skin, but, understandably, not broken skin."

At this point, paraben free is more of a marketing scheme to sell products to people who haven't done their research. Parabens are a cheap and effective way of keeping your skincare and makeup free of gross bacteria, and I would rather trust science than give into fear-mongering. Everyone is free to make up their own mind about parabens, but I think you should be aware of the facts rather than base your opinion on hearsay and misinformation. Science 4evaaaa !!



  1. I thought it was the aluminum in deodorant that actually causes breast cancer...however as someone who has a predisposition to female related disorders (genetic) I am now more wary of parabens only because anything with an estrogenic effect could be detrimental to my health (I even avoid soy). In general I feel that the majority of fads in food and makeup are just that--fads--and fear mongering but in this case I am wary but still use them lol...

    1. I think there have been a few different things that have been studied in connection to deodorant and breast cancer, with parabens being one of them. That was one of the things that started the whole debate from what I understand. I think your avoidance of parabens is completely reasonable and understandable, but I just hoped to show a different perspective on the paraben issue with this post. I'm very much a believer in reason and the scientific method, so if studies have not shown any connection between parabens and whatever they're supposed to cause, I don't see any reason to worry :D Thanks for your comment, I always appreciate other perspectives!!

  2. I've heard quite a few things about parabens in the past couple of years, and although they're not a major dealbreaker for me, I still tend to avoid them. I already have some products with parabens in it they I would not like to give up, so I tend to cut down on them if possible. They are predominately used to kill bacteria in water based products, so they can also be toxic to cells. I'm not positive of the degree to which this happens, but I still like to be more cautious. No harm in being careful, right? :)

    1. Of course! But I mean preservatives all do the same thing, they prevent bacteria from growing in our cosmetics by killing them. Parabens are just one class that are used haha :D Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it!

  3. I don't actively avoid parabens, but I do tend to take note when I'm doing a review, because a lot of people do want that information. This post was an interesting read for someone on the fence like myself. Thanks!

  4. I don't use deodorant with parabens but I don't care if any other product has them! I'm pretty sure though that the scientists that give public reports are not always honest :) Any politician, scientist or whatever, don't have to tell the truth to the public lol. Ok.. I'm not sure if I can believe anything the media or anybody else say in public. All these reports may as well be true or just a lie. Even people that live healthy life can get cancer.. Food with parabens is indeed unhealthy though. Because it's processed. I'm not sure what to believe for parabens.

    1. I see and understand what you mean! But I trust science, scientists, and the scientific method, and see no reason to distrust them. I find the paraben thing similar to the vaccines causing autism scare in a few ways- one poorly done study suggesting a link between two unrelated things, people get scared, numerous papers come out debunking it, but some people still avoid it just to be safe. Of course, avoiding parabens isn't nearly as big of a deal as people refusing to have their children vaccinated ^^ I understand everyone's concern and think it is perfectly valid of course! Hope you're well!!! :D

  5. Interesting read. Despite it being scientifically proven that parabens are non-toxic etc, I would prefer not to use products containing them just to be cautious but I'm not too fussed. Also thanks for popping by my blog! You have a great blog, following you now :)

    Vanity Corner

    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate your input, I think being cautious of them is reasonable :D I look forward to reading more of your posts x

  6. Interesting post I prefer use use products without parabens because I have sensitve skin. Same with makeup! Many tjanks for this informative review!

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