What Are Parabens

Parabens are some of those ugly ingredients found in so many of the so called "Beauty" skincare products, women use everyday. Yes, I intentionally placed the quotation marks on the world beauty, because many of the most common ingredients used in the making of cosmetics and skincare products, are far from having anything to do with beauty much less been healthy. These ingredients are ugly yes, because they're toxic and dangerous to the human body and with continued use can have detrimental health consequences.

WHAT ARE PARABENS? Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used as artificial preservatives in cosmetic and body care products since the 1920s. Since cosmetics contain ingredients that can biodegrade, these chemicals are added to prevent and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, increasing the shelf life of the product. The concern with these chemicals is that scientific studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer. They can also cause skin irritation. Moreover, studies have detected parabens in nearly all urine samples taken from adults in the U.S., regardless of demographic (Ye 2006).


Given the endocrine disruption capacity and documented female and male reproductive harm, coupled with the potential for repeated lifelong exposure, it is clear that long-chain parabens (isobutyl-, butyl-, isopropyl- and propylparaben) should not be used in personal care or cosmetic products.

A 2004 UK study detected traces of five parabens in the breast tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied.[6] This small study does not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, but it is important because it detected the presence of intact parabens—unaltered by the body’s metabolism—which is an indication of the chemical’s ability to penetrate skin and remain in breast tissue. A more recent study found higher levels of one paraben, n-propylparaben, in the axilla quadrant of the breast (the area nearest the underarm).[7] This is the region in which the highest proportion of breast tumors is found, although paraben concentration in the tissue samples was not related to location of breast tumors in individual women. Parabens are not water soluble and can penetrate the skin. As a result, repeated application of a product or multiple products containing parabens could mean almost continuous exposure.[8]The ubiquity of parabens in personal care products makes this a reasonable scenario.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH CONCERNS OF USING PARABENS? While the chemicals in cosmetics make us look, feel, and smell better, research strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of these chemicals may contribute to the development of cancer in people. But because personal care products contain a diverse combination of chemicals, it's nearly impossible to show a definite cause and effect for any specific chemical on its own.


Still, many of these chemicals are considered hormone disruptors. Hormone disruptors can affect how estrogen and other hormones act in the body, by blocking them or mimicking them, which throws off the body's hormonal balance. Because estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow, many women choose to limit their exposure to these chemicals that can act like estrogen.

Endocrine disruption: Parabens are potential endocrine disruptors due to their ability to mimic estrogen.[9] In cell studies, parabens have been found to weakly bind to estrogen receptors.[10]Studies demonstrate that at sufficient concentrations, parabens can increase cell proliferation in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells, which are often used as a sensitive measure of estrogenic activity.[11] In MCF-7 cells, isopropyl- and isobutyl parabens have the most potent of proliferative potency, but they are around 170,000 times lower than estradiol.