The fuss, the facts, the science

What is all the fuss about the safety surrounding the paraben-class of preservatives in cosmetics? You may have read online, or heard from friends, that parabens are suspected of having a connections with certain types of cancer and estrogen-like activity. The truth is that the internet does not refuse material, as paper does not refuse ink. Parabens are some of the safest ingredients used in cosmetics today, with a long track record of research-supported usefulness in keeping dangerous microbial contaminants out of skincare products.

In reality, without safe and effective additives that keep microbial growth to a minimum, we would be gambling each time with an infection risk when we applied a skin treatment around our eyes, nose, and mouth or near broken skin. Quite a few types of pathogenic organisms can grow in cosmetics if they are not properly preserved. Parabens happen to be cleared by the FDA for use of concentrations up to 25% in cosmetics, with a typical use level of 0.01-0.3%. The FDA has received plenty of requests for information of parabens since they started receiving a bad rap, and has found that they exhibit no demonstrated risk to the consumer as they are in use currently.

​When referring to the only published study that was said to link parabens to breast cancer, the FDA review found that “…the study left several questions unanswered. For example, the study did not show that parabens cause cancer, or that they are harmful in any way, and the study did not look at possible paraben levels in normal tissue.” Even going further, with more studies, it was found that “…butylparaben, showed from 10,000- to 100,000-fold less activity than naturally occurring estradiol (a form of estrogen)”

You may have been told that the European Union has banned parabens in cosmetic products. If you read the full European Commission press release, however, it does not ban all parabens. In fact, the report states “Preservatives are important in cosmetics as they protect consumers from harmful pathogens that would otherwise invade the creams and products people use on a daily basis. Without preservatives all cosmetics would have a very short shelf life and would, in the most part, have to be stored in a fridge.”

In addition, the Commission states “The group of chemicals known as parabens make up an important part of the preservatives which could be used in cosmetics. …Propylparaben and Butylparaben, other parabens, like Methylparaben and Ethylparaben, are safe, as repeatedly confirmed by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). They are also some of the most efficient preservatives.”​

The Commission did ban the use of 5 parabens, but it was because “no information was submitted for the safety evaluation” and because of that, “the human risk cannot be evaluated.”

Essentially, there is no current scientific evidence supporting the internet sensation that says parabens are unsafe or cause cancer.

Hoping this article has been informative,

DeLucca R&D​