Parabens: Are They Safe After All?

By now most of us have heard about the reported dangers of using a group of preservatives called parabens.  There are 6 different types of parabens.   Among them are methylparaben, butylparaben, proplparaben, etc.  Parabens have been used in skin care and cosmetics for years and are a very effective broad spectrum group of preservatives (they address both mold and bacteria).  

The study in question appears to have been extremely flawed.  It did not bother to test healthy breast tissue as a comparison.   There did not appear to be any “scientific” evidence that the parabens found in breast tissue had any direct link to breast cancer.  Experimental designs must be tightly controlled; every caution must be taken to control for extraneous variables, or those things that can interfere with the results.   Causation (A causes B) was absolutely not proven in this study.  So, to say that parabens caused breast cancer based on the results of this study is not valid.     

I have written about the need for an effective non-toxic preservative(s) in both my blog posts and other articles which I have written.  Many “all natural” preservatives are simply not effective enough to pass a preservative “challenge test,” which basically puts a product through extreme circumstances to see how well it will hold up when exposed to high heat and also the introduction of mold and bacteria over a 28 day period or longer.  

I believe that more rigorous scientific research needs to be done to prove that parabens are harmful.   Many watchdog groups emphatically state that parabens cause cancer and are toxic, but do not necessarily have the scientific studies to back it up.  Yes, parabens can cause skin irritations in some, but so can many other preservatives; it really depends on the sensitivity of the individual.  It is not uncommon for people to have allergic reactions or sensitivities to some natural ingredients as well.

I choose to err on the side of caution when it comes to parabens.  I believe more research needs to be done to either refute the negative conclusions that have been reached, or scientifically prove that they are potentially harmful.  In the meantime, there are less controversial preservative options that are highly effective and non-toxic.

Also, please remember that the potential harm from toxic chemicals does not usually occur from the use of a single product; it is the cumulative long term exposure from a multitude of chemicals on a daily basis.  When you add up all of the products we use on a daily basis and count the number of chemicals we are exposed to,  it could easily add up to 200-300 a day.

Dr. Teri Dourmashkin received her Doctorate in Health Education at Columbia University.  She is a passionate advocate of natural non-toxic skin care.  She is the Founder and President of La Vie Celeste Skin Care, Inc.  La Vie Celeste specializes in non-toxic anti-aging skin care featuring the powerful antioxidant R-Lipoic Acid.  La Vie Celeste—the perfect union of science and nature.  To learn more, visit Over the last few years the controversy about parabens began over a single 2004 study which was conducted in the UK by an oncologist in Edinborough.  In this study, the researchers found parabens in the breast tissue of 18 out of 20 women who had breast cancer.   The news of this study spread like wild fire on the internet, and even major commercial cosmetic and skin care companies began eliminating parabens from their products.  I do not suspect it was because they necessarily felt they were dangerous, but because many consumers believed they were.  

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