The need for Paraben
‘Parabens’ are parahydroxybenzoates that are commonly used in cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, shaving creams, personal lubricants, tanning solutions, toothpastes, moisturizers, shampoos and a host of other products in order to increase their shelf life.
Parabens such as methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, ethylparaben, benzylparaben and polyparaben are added to a number of over-the-counter cosmetics and makeup products as preservatives. They are commonly added as food additives to canned, tinned, stored and processed foods in order to increase their longevity and prevent mold formation and spoilage.
Parabens have bactericidal, fungicidal and antimicrobial properties due to which they prevent bacterial and fungal infestation in stored products. Not only this, they are relatively inexpensive and hence found to be a commonly used preservative type that suits the budget and pricing of many types of products and their manufacturers. Due to these reasons, parabens are often added in almost most of the stored products that are meant for external and internal use.
Paraben has become a controversial ingredient
Only in recent days have we begun to question the fact whether using parabens in products is absolutely safe for us. It remains a constantly debated topic since so many products ranging from baby care to daily care used by all of us contain parabens these days.
There is increasing awareness of the potential health hazards caused by parabens. However, an in-depth understanding of the effect of parabens on our systems is required to consciously take the final call of switching to safer paraben-free cosmetics and other products.
Parabens may cause skin problems
An American study published in the journal of toxicology noted that parabens applied topically inhibit estrogen sulfotransferase activity and prevent cytosol sulfation which suggests the underlying principle of skin anti-aging benefits provided by cosmetics containing parabens.
At the same time, studies have revealed that paraben could be a potentially harmful additive in cosmetics since it affects the body even when cosmetics containing it are only applied topically.
Many studies have established that parabens actually cause contact dermatitis, eczema, rashes, skin irritation and rosacea. A study published in the journal of the American medical association noted that parabens provoked bronchospasm and pruritis and were capable of causing immunologically mediated hypersensitivity reactions.
It is therefore a matter of great concern that needs to be researched and tested before using cosmetics containing parabens.
Parabens could interfere with endocrine activities
Endocrine system is the primary hormonal secretion and regulation pathway. Most of the regulatory hormones that are quintessential for proper functioning of the body are secreted and controlled by the endocrine system.
Once cosmetics containing parabens are applied, a process of dermal intake happens wherein parabens enter the blood stream through the skin. Though they are hydrolyzed and excreted through urine, trace amounts of intact paraben still remain in the blood.
Many research studies including a study published in the journal of reproductive toxicology indicate that increased paraben content disrupts proper functioning of the endocrine system in adults and children alike.
Parabens and the risk of breast cancer
Breast tissue samples taken from cancer patients wide and far have shown increased paraben presence. Parabens have been noted to bind with estrogen receptors and initiate estrogenic cellular pathways mimicking the activities of human estrogen hormone.
This is a concern-causing factor since increased levels of parabens interferes with regular hormonal pathways and their functioning in women. Research studies have noted that increased exposure to parabens through cosmetics, deodorants, creams and moisturizers along with food products reduces the puberty age in girls by altering their hormonal regulatory activities.
A recent study published by the American association of cancer research noted that serum levels of butylparaben and propylparaben were detectably higher by almost fifty five and sixty seven percent respectively, in women with breast cancer who were randomly chosen for the mammographic studies.
Another study published in the European journal of cancer prevention ratified that increased use and early onset of antiperspirant and deodorant dosage coupled with underarm shaving was associated with earlier age of cancer diagnosis. Yet another study performed in the United Kingdom noted that increased incidence of breast cancer in the upper quadrant of the breast was associated with deodorant application in the axilla.
Parabens affect the male reproductive system
A toxicology study performed in Japan published in the journal of food and chemical toxicology noted that butyl paraben adversely affects testosterone secretion and the functioning of the male reproductive system. This study further proved that propylparaben ingested within the acceptable daily intake level of ten milligrams per kilogram of body weight still significantly reduced daily sperm production and its efficiency. The serum testosterone levels were also found to reduce significantly. Thus, it has become evident that parabens affect the production of male sex hormone,production and efficacy of sperms and the overall functioning of the male reproductive system.
Parabens are linked with obesity
Ingesting parabens has found to be associated with weight gain and obesity also. A recent study published in the journal of toxicological sciences noted that parabens promote adipogenesis which is a process through which fat cells differentiate and get stored as adipose tissue and triglycerides in the body. Triglycerides are a type of bad cholesterol that increases the risk of heart problems while increased accumulation of adipose tissue leads to obesity. Butylparaben and propylparaben were found to be increasingly powerful in activating the glucocorticoid receptor while promoting adipose conversion.
Paraben-free cosmetics – the future
All this research indicates that paraben applied topically in higher quantities affects our skin, reproductive and hormonal systems. Few novel setups have come up in an effort to bring paraben-free products to the limelight. Paraben-free products are ideally made from natural and organic sources. Though their shelf-life could be shorter and they might be a little more expensive, paraben-free cosmetics have paved way for the future by becoming the safer alternative.