As consumers grow ingredient savvy the debate on the safety of Parabens in personal hygiene and beauty products continues steadily. The great paraben panic began when scientific studies, followed by viral email news stories, reported that high concentrations of parabens in the body can cause cell mutation leading to cancer – more specifically breast cancer. Many scientific reports have since have discredited parabens having any direct link cancer requiring further study, however, the interpretation of the findings is all over the map.
What is a Paraben? A paraben is a preservative used in products to increase shelf life. They are widely used because they are compatible in many formulas and provide bactericidal and fungicidal properties in products. All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced although some are identical to naturally occurring parabens, like the ones found in blueberries.
Why the controversy? A very small percentage of consumers with skin allergies, specifically paraben allergies, can experience contact dermatitis or rosacea.
Research has loosely connected parabens found in anti-perspirants to the usual location of tumors in breast tissue; the upper area of the tissue nearest the armpit. The controversial ingredient has proven to mimic estrogen and some estrogens are known to drive the growth of tumors. It is also important to note that the mutating activity of estrogen that causes cancerous tumors and estrogen production are not the same thing.
In addition to scientific reporting, The American Cancer Society has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a claim that use of cosmetics such as antiperspirants increase an individual's risk of developing breast cancer, but went on to state that "larger studies are needed to find out what effect, if any, parabens might have on breast cancer risk”.
Until research proves otherwise, it’s probably safe to say we don’t have much to worry about as far as facial cosmetics go. Body products, however, we’re going to say better safe then sorry.