Parabens – A Preservative Used In Cosmetics

Paraben is a preservative used in cosmetics to prevent mold or microbial growth. The use of parabens protect the consumer who uses the product and maintains the product”s integrity. They can be found in products such as makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and shaving products. They are also used in food and drugs. It is the most widely used preservative used in the cosmetic industry. They are popular because they are inexpensive, colorless, odorless and nontoxic.

The proven and most studied preservatives are the paraben family. Parabens were first introduced in the 1930″s. Parabens have been used safely and effectively for years. This includes propyl paraben, methyl paraben, and butyl paraben, benzyl paraben and ethyl paraben. There are numerous clinic studies that verify the safety of the use of parabens. The US Environmental Protection Agency gave parabens the GRAS status, Generally Recognized as Safe, in 1995. Also, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, reviewed the safety of parabens and concluded that parabens were safe for use in cosmetic levels up to 0.4% and combined parabens up to 0.8%. The FDA has declared that there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about using cosmetics containing parabens. Overall, clinical studies have shown parabens to be non-toxic and safe for use in cosmetics (Food & Chemical Toxicology(2005),43(7),985-1015).

Normally more than one type of paraben is used in a product for preservation. Sometimes they are used together with other preservatives to protect against a large range of microorganisms. Only a small amount of the preservative is needed, about 0.25% in cosmetics. Methyl and ethyl parabens are the most frequently used parabens and the most commonly used ingredient in cosmetic preparation, other than water. There have been studies done on both animals and humans that show that methyl paraben is practically non-toxic by both oral and parenteral routes (Food & Chem Toxicology(2002),40(10),1335-1373) Methyl paraben is less toxic than table salt. There is no evidence that shows that methyl paraben accumulates in the body. For those with normal skin it is practically non-irritating and non-sensitizing (Food & Chem Toxicology (2002),40(10),1335-1373) It”s been found to be non-carcinogenic, non-mutagenic, non-teratogenic, and non-embryotixic. Basically, there has been no evidence to support the idea that it is hazardous to one”s health and well being. Studies have found it to be classified as safe for use in cosmetics. The same holds true for propyl paraben as well; numerous studies have been done to prove its safety of use in cosmetics (Food & Chemical Toxicology(2001),39(6),513-532).

Parabens have a wide spectrum of activity against yeasts, molds, and bacteria. They are more effective in protection against fungi than they are against bacteria. Without the use of preservatives such as parabens, creams and other manufactured cosmetics would mold in about a month”s time. Some parabens are more effective at protecting against some microbial growth than others. Because of this, a combination of parabens is usually used in a product to help protect against a wider range of microbial growth. But, it is never in excess of 0.8%, as regulated by the CIR. A study was done that reviewed 215 cosmetic products. They wanted to analyze the concentration and frequency of the use of the parabens in cosmetics and determine if they comply with the regulations set forth for parabens in cosmetics. Their results found that 77% of the products contain 0.01%-0.87% parabens. They found a maximum of 0.32% methyl- and proyl paraben, 0.19% ethyl paraben, 0.07% butyl and benzylparaben in the paraben positive cosmetics. (Contact Dermatitis,3(1),8-30).

There has been controversy over the use of parabens in cosmetically recently over the years. There are concerns that parabens are carcinogenic and have estrogenic effects. There has been no proof behind these claims. Research has been done and studies have determined that no correlation between parabens and cancer has been found (Journal of Applied Tox(2004, 24(3), 167-176).

Some companies claiming these products to be “paraben free” use phenoxyethanol, which is another type of preservative. It has numerous known dangerous side effects (Indo Gulf Group, Material Safety Report-Phenoxyethanol(2005),1-6). It has been proven to cause nausea with vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. If inhaled it may cause respiratory tract irritation. It also has been found to cause skin irritation. It”s even warned that it may cause central nervous system depression and kidney damage. They suggest you wash hands thoroughly after handling and to wear gloves when handling phenoxyethanol. The FDA has even issued a warning that states the same thing in reference to Phenoxyethanol. So why would you want to use a product that contains this ingredient?

There are no known natural preservatives that can effectively stop microorganism growth in cosmetic creams and lotions. Parabens, although not a natural product, have been shown to be the safest, most effective preservative to use in cosmetics. Research is being done every day so in the future we should have other options for natural preservatives. In the mean time most major cosmetic companies, including natural product companies, use safe and well studied preservatives. Be assured that our creams and the preservatives used are of up most quality and very effective at a very low cost.