Should You Be Worried About Parabens in Your Moisturizer?
The short answer to this question is yes, you should.
There are reasons why more and more cosmetics are being made paraben-free nowadays. While science may not yet have produced unassailable proof that parabens are directly linked to cancer and reproductive maladies, there is a mounting body of evidence pointing in the direction of such a link.
What Are Parabens and the FDA’s Position?
Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics and foods. First used in the 1950s, they were deemed an inexpensive and effective way to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold in these products, enabling them to have a longer shelf-life.
The FDA’s position on the use of parabens in moisturizers, other cosmetics and food is somewhat ambivalent. While they clearly state that they haven’t discovered a smoking gun to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that parabens have direct harmful repercussions on human health, the FDA people are careful to stress that they’re continuing to monitor published studies on the subject. So, while the FDA currently has no laws against paraben use, they haven’t ruled out the possibility that these chemicals are harmful.
Why Are Parabens Considered Harmful by Some?
There have been many studies that shed light on the harmful nature of parabens. Scientists have long determined that parabens’ chemical structure is similar to that of the hormone estrogen and that they mimic estrogen’s activity in the body. But because this activity is fairly weak, small doses of parabens in moisturizers, other cosmetics and foods, have been deemed an acceptable risk because of their effectiveness in preventing bacteria.
However, critics have started to question the cumulative effect of parabens on the human body, as well as their interactions with other compounds in the body and products. While a small dose here and there may not be harmful, long-term absorption of these chemicals by the body carries a huge question mark.
What Do We Know About Parabens’ Effects on the Body?
The potential link between parabens and cancer was first published in 2004 by British cancer researcher Philippa Darbre. She was the first to discover the presence of parabens in malignant breast tumors.
Over the years, scientists have published studies linking parabens to a range of fertility, reproductive, and metabolic dysfunctions, as well as breast cancer. More recently, in 2015, a comprehensive study from UC Berkeley discovered that even at low doses, parabens in conjunction with other agents that regulate cell growth were able to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.
One thing is for sure: parabens are not inert. They mimic estrogen activity in the body and are considered endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that at certain levels can interfere with hormone systems, creating disruptions that may result in cancer growth, birth defects and various developmental disorders.
What Alternatives to Moisturizers With Parabens Are There?
Parabens in moisturizers are a concern. Daily application to the skin provides ample opportunity for them to get into the system and accumulate over time. Why take the risk? Say no to anything with methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben listed as ingredients.
Look for a moisturizer that doesn’t rely on parabens to preserve it. A paraben-free moisturizer with an aloe vera base is a much better and safer choice. Likewise, if that moisturizer contains other ingredients from nature like manuka honey, shea butter and coconut oil, you know you’re on safe and effective ground. Maybe, to ensure a decent shelf life, you might want to store that moisturizer in the fridge, but that’s a small price to pay compared with slathering uncertain chemical preservatives on your skin.
Reach for a moisturizer and other skin products that contain a healthy proportion of organic, natural and food-grade ingredients. You won’t regret it.
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