The Dangers of Parabens in Cosmetic Products
By: Van Le |
The cosmetic industry brings in billions of dollar annually, and every day, thousands of consumers meticulously search for the perfect shade of foundation, concealer, or powder to match our skin. We analyze the front of the product, looking closely at the color, packaging, and eye-catching designs, but rarely look at the back of the products. The few times that we turn the product over to look at the back labels, we often only read the directions for use and our eyes almost never make it down to the ingredients list. Recent trends have pushed consumer awareness of potentially harmful cosmetic ingredients, specifically parabens.
Parabens are widely used as preservatives in cosmetic products, and they prevent the growth of microorganism such as mold and fungus. They are esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid and commonly labeled in beauty products as methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparabens. Parabens have been widely used in makeup without regulation since the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to approve cosmetic products, however, there have been recent studies that suggest parabens may be linked to breast cancer. The FDA notes that the Cosmetic Ingredient
Review, an industry-sponsored organizations that looks at the safety of cosmetic products, states that methyparaben, propylparaben, and butylparabin are all safe to when used alone up to 0.4%. Companies that use parabens often use a combination of several parabens in their products, however, industry experts still insist that they are safe. Companies often use parabens because they are cheap and extend the product’s shelf-life.
The Breast Cancer Fund is an organization dedicated to eliminating environmental factors that can lead to the disease, and according to its website, conducted a study in which high amounts of parabens have been extracted from biopsy samples of breast cancer tumors. The website also states that “parabens have also been found in almost all urine samples examined from a demographically diverse sample of U.S. adults,” suggesting that our skin absorbs the parabens.
As a result, organizations such as the Breast Cancer Fund are spearheading campaigns to increase consumer awareness and urge companies to eliminate parabens from their products. “Think Before You Pink” is a campaign that reveals names of companies who claim to support the fight against breast cancer, but actually use ingredients that are linked to the disease in their products.
Since there is currently not enough scientific proof to show that parabens are harmful to the body, the FDA cannot ban its use, however, many consumers are taking the precautionary route by choosing products that contain natural ingredients. The argument over the safety of products containing parabens continues. Although physical beauty is only skin deep, cosmetic products containing parabens can seep beyond the skin and harm our bodies.
Van Le is a staff writer for the CSU Daily Titan and writing intern for Vivoderm Laboratories in Los Angeles, California. She is currently pursuing a Journalism degree at California State University, Fullerton.
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