What are Parabens?

  • By Aaron Chua
  • 11 Sep, 2017

Parabens easily penetrate the skin. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has listed parabens as Category 1 priority substances, based on evidence that they interfere with hormone function. Parabens can mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. They have been detected in human breast cancer tissues, suggesting a possible association between parabens in cosmetics and cancer. Parabens may also interfere with male reproductive functions. In addition, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.

Parabens occur naturally at low levels in certain foods, such as barley, strawberries, currents, vanilla, carrots, and onions, although a synthetic preparation derived from petrochemicals is used in cosmetics. Parabens in foods are metabolized when eaten, making them less strongly estrogenic. In contrast, when applied to the skin and absorbed into the body, parabens in cosmetics bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact. It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50 mg per day of parabens from cosmetics. More research is needed concerning the resulting levels of parabens in people. Studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did find four different parabens in human urine samples, indicating exposure despite the very low levels in products. You can find out more about parabens here.

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