Health risks: Parabens in beauty products
By Jenna Owsianik
What’s in your make-up kit? And how many of those beauty products do you use in a day? Give or take a few products, my usual morning regime involves body lotion, tinted moisturizer, mascara, hair mold, and sometimes bronzer or eyeliner if I’m feeling so inclined. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of other women, particularly young women, also reach my daily average.
What concerns me is that most beauty products contain parabens, a type of preservative used to extend the shelf life of cosmetics and prevent them from developing mold. But, what concerns me more are recent studies suggesting parabens may pose human health risks.
There are a variety of personal care products being sold as paraben-free, and ones consisting of only natural preservatives claimed to be safe alternatives to those used in traditional cosmetic brands.
However, so-called natural preservatives, such as grapefruit seed extract and honeysuckle extract, have also been called out for having potentially damaging health effects — meaning just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s not harmful.
Without a science background to make sense of parabens and to evaluate the validity and potential seriousness of information on them, I tried to chase down experts in the relevant fields who could help me out. Unfortunately, all my leads up to this point have come up dry. I’ll keep trying.
I did find a series of blog posts on The Huffington Post written by Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, a professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. He’s also an author of Toxic Beauty, a book that analyzes the ingredients used in prevalent cosmetic and personal care products for their toxic effects.
In a blog post, Dr. Epstein states that “it has been estimated that women are exposed to high levels, as much as 50 milligrams of parabens daily, from cosmetics and personal care products.”
This exposure is noteworthy as he explains:
“Parabens have shown to be readily absorbed through the skin of immature female rodents, and to stimulate premature uterine growth. Parabens have also been shown to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells in laboratory tests, and incriminated as possible causes of breast cancer.”
Dr. Epstein’s conclusions are somewhat frightening when I consider how many products containing parabens I use a day. We’re all in charge of looking after our own health, and the next time I buy something that will be applied to my skin I’m going to pay more attention to what’s on the label.