By: Dr Gary Weinberger, MD FACS
Once and for all it is time we call to task those bloggers and pseudo-experts who have absolutely no idea how to interpret scientific data before they put their fear mongering false information into print. When it comes to cosmetic ingredients this is more the rule then the exception. There has been a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation of scientific data regarding parabens and I will try to set the record straight.
Parabens is a general name given to a group of p-hydroxybenzoic acid esters that are used as preservatives in the cosmetic industry. When used in combination they can reach levels as high as 0.8% or as an individual ingredient it can reach levels as high as 0.4%. Methylparabens, Ethylparabens, Butylparabens, Isobutylparabens, Propylparabens, and Isopropylparabens are the most frequently used parabens by the cosmetic industry and it is estimated that either a single paraben or multiple parabens are used in over 22,000 cosmetics on the market today.
When paraben containing cosmetics are applied to the skin they penetrate the stratum corneum, or outer protective layer of the skin, in an inverse fashion relative to the paraben molecule chain length. That is to say the longer the molecule the more slowly it penetrates and is absorbed into the body. However, it is important to understand that parabens do NOT accumulate in the body, in fact, even after direct intravenous injection serum concentrations of parabens quickly decline and remain low. Genotoxic studies in animals indicate that parabens do not cause any mutation.
The big question and the one that is most written about is whether parabens have any estrogen-like or xenoestrogen action that could be responsible for an increase in human breast cancer. Based on the best available scientific evidence as reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel the toxicity of parabens used in concentrations found in cosmetics would not cause any irritation or sensitization of human skin and although parabens do penetrate the stratum corneum it is metabolized allowing only 1% or less to be absorbed into the body. As a result the Expert Panel supports the use of parabens as preservatives in cosmetic products to be safe. There have been questions raised however, about the safety of other of other cosmetic ingredients such as ethylene glycol and other xenoestrogens (substances with estrogen like activity) that have been deemed by the International Agency for Research for Cancer as carcinogenic and mutagenic to humans with enough evidence that they may play a role in the development of breast cancer. Substances like aluminum salts, phthalates or bisophenol A fall into this category demonstrating a potential to result in DNA damage in animal and human mammary epithelial cells. However, to be clear, no epidemiological data on humans have been published so far, so the jury is still out as to whether these compounds can cause breast cancer in human beings and how much of role does genetic disposition and natural aging contribute to cancer formation.
Editors Note – Lycopene Skincare Products do not contain any parabens, Dr Weinberger has written this article to dispel any rumors about the ingredient’s safety.