Ah parabens, that controversial skincare ingredient you’ll have seen plastered around as the chemical equivalent of Satan, but what exactly is it, how does it affect you and can it cause cancer?
What is it?
Parabens are a family of preservatives commonly used to control the growth of microbes in cosmetics, toiletries and as food additives.
The most commonly used parabens are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben, although many others (isopropyl-, isobutyl-, pentyl-, phenyl-, benzyl-) have been used in products as well. Their chemical structures and actions are very similar, with each sharing the backbone as shown on the left, with the “R” group changing as depending on which paraben it is.
Developed in the 1920’s, it is now one of the most common preservative used in skincare and we can see why. Parabens are inexpensive, effective and work well in most formulations. What isn’t to love?
Does parabens cause cancer?
Despite the advantage that parabens have in skincare, the reputation has soured quicker than milk left out on a warm day. The PR nightmare started with a study published that found parabens accumulating in breast cancer tissue and that study was true, parabens was detected but before you start panicking, consider this.
In a different study, ~90% of the 60 Danish men tested, submitted a positive sample for parabens. (source). An American study found methylparaben in 99.1% of 2458 of all samples. (source)
These Parabens aren’t just found in breast cancer. It’s found practically everywhere in the body. This is the fact the study didn’t take into account and there were other issues found with the study as well. While I would love to see more research into this, I don’t (and many others) believe parabens causes cancer.
So if parabens aren’t suspected of being carcinogens, are very effective at keeping the pesky microbes at bay and it’s cheap to use, which lowers the cost for you, why don’t we at R10 Labs use it in our skincare? Well, it’s because of the weak xenoestrogen activity of it.
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