Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, benzylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben)
What is it:
Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in lotions, conditioners, shampoos, shower gels, deodorants, etc.
- Although the results have been hotly debated, parabens have been found to accumulate in breast cancer tissue. (Source) [Critics of this study claim that the samples tested were contaminated during the study.]
- Parabens are suspected to raise levels of estrogen by interfering with the enzyme that flushes estrogen from the body. This enzyme is found in the skin, lessening counterarguments that parabens are not absorbed in to the body enough to be problematic. (Source)
- Parabens are absorbed in to the body. In one study of Danish men, "methyl-, ethyl-, n-propyl- and n-butyl parabens were measurable in 98%, 80%, 98% and 83% of the men, respectively." (Source) An American study found methyparaben in 99.1% of the study samples. Women had significantly higher concentrations of parabens, likely due to higher use of personal care products. Older women had even higher concentrations, likely due to higher absorption rates due to a thinner skin barrier. (Source) Another study in Denmark found that urinary concentrations of parabens increased after application of a paraben-containing cream, furthering the evidence that parabens applied dermally are absorbed. (Source)
- Numerous studies have found Parabens to interfere with estrogen receptors. (Source) (Source) (Source) (Source) (Source)
- The European Journal of Cancer Prevention reported that “Frequency and earlier onset of antiperspirant/deodorant usage with underarm shaving were associated with an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis.” It is possible that the parabens (and other chemicals) in the antiperspirant are to blame for this.
What type of products is it found in:
Any water-based formula--conditioner, shampoo, body washes, lotions, hair creams, makeups.
Brands that use this ingredient:
For a full list, click here: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/browse.php?containing=703937
Over the last few years the EWG hazard score of this ingredient has crept from a 4 to an 8. It seems like the evidence keeps piling up against parabens. The good news is that a lot of companies are reformulating their products without parabens because the word is getting out. The bad news is, though, that they're just replacing parabens with other harmful preservatives like diazolidinyl urea and tetrasodium EDTA.
For more detailed information about the parabens debate, check out my article here.