Parabens or Pair-a-bins?

Photo Courtesy BinaryApe via Flickr
A friend recently told me that she was allergic to parabens. She wasn’t sure what they were, but knew they were in many skin care products. I told her that she was better off not using them anyway. Which prompted her to ask what I knew about them. Here’s what you need to know:

Parabens are preservatives that are used in many cosmetics, skin care and personal care products because they prevent microbial growth. You’ll find them listed in ingredients with names like: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. Methylparaben & propylparaben are the most common ones and can be found in over ten thousand (10,000) products in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database.

Since they’re applied to your skin, they are absorbed and eventually get into your bloodstream and digestive system. And that’s where the real problems start. They’re found in breast tumors and also in urine samples of most Americans. Parabens are known to mimic the role of estrogen and so have been implicated in breast cancer. According to Breast Cancer Fund, they can increase the expression of genes that cause breast tumor cells to grow in vitro.

So, are they bad? Good question.

According to the FDA, there is no reason to be concerned with parabens. Which doesn’t say that they have been tested and proven safe. Nor does it rule out a future finding that they are harmful.

However, checking the EWG’s website, parabens are rated in the moderate toxicity range. You may want to reconsider their use, especially if you experience skin sensitivity to make up and skin care products.

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