You’ve probably heard of this ingredient in anti-aging skin care products, but how much do you really know about what they’re doing to your skin? Parabens have been used as a preservative in anti-aging skin care cosmetics, makeup, and fragrances for over 70 years; however, several organizations have revealed some alarming side effects of using too much of this dangerous ingredient.
Parabens are commonly used as a preservative in anti-aging skin care products and other personal care products, like shaving cream, deodorant, and shampoo to prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria, since many of these types of products are often stored in damp bathrooms. Parabens can appear under a number of different names in anti-aging skin care products, such as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. It’s estimated that women are exposed to more than 50 mg of parabens daily through the use of anti-aging skin care products, cosmetics, and other personal care goods that contain the preservative as an ingredient.
While parabens are found in certain foods, like barley, strawberries, vanilla, carrots, and onions, it is in very low concentrations and the preservative is metabolized by the body. However, with the use of anti-aging skin care products, parabens are absorbed directly into the skin and directly into your bloodstream, bypassing the metabolic process.
When used excessively via anti-aging skin care products and other cosmetics, parabens have been shown to interfere with natural hormone function, because they can mimic the function of estrogen in the human body—estrogen is the primary sex hormone for women. The parabens used in many anti-aging skin care products have also been found in breast cancer tissue—one study in particular found that out of 160 breast cancer tissue samples, nearly 99% contained parabens. Furthermore, parabens can even react with UVB rays, causing accelerated aging of the skin and DNA damage.
More and more men are using anti-aging skin care products now. That’s why it’s important to note that there is also evidence that parabens can interfere with male reproductive function, leading to a decline in sperm count and even testicular cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has assured consumers that there’s no reason to stop using products containing parabens, since the preservative is typically used only in low levels for personal care and anti-aging skin care products. But studies have found human urine to contain has many as four different types of parabens, which means that even though you’re using an anti-aging skin care product with low levels of parabens, your body is still absorbing the toxin.
Ultimately, it is up to you as a consumer to decide if you’re going to continue to use anti-aging skin care products that contain parabens. But think about this: is it really worth the risk? Instead of putting yourself, namely your aging skin, in harm’s way, it’s always safer to err on the side of caution and look for anti-aging skin care products that are paraben-free—if an anti-aging skin care product is “paraben-free,” it will usually be made pretty clear on the packaging. You can also ask your dermatologist to recommend alternative anti-aging skin care products that will work for your individual skin type. Remember, the texture and composition of your skin changes as you age, so it may be time to update your anti-aging skin care regimen anyways.