For full disclosure, I am a licensed aesthetician, and have and do work for cosmetics/skincare companies for over 20 years.
I am a cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed around 1993, roughly about the time, ingredients started to get more scrutiny (which I believe is good for everyone –the beauty industry, chemists, consumers, etc.). I was MAD and I was scared! I was a single mother with a young son; what would become of him if I succumbed to my cancer.
So, of course, I wanted to make sure I knew everything I could about the disease, without going into my specific diagnosis, I felt that with my background as an ingredient expert, I could find out why this happened to me and WHO/WHAT was responsible. As most human beings, fear induces many emotions, and for me I needed to “blame” someone or something for my diagnosis.
I began my research without really knowing where to start, and lo and behold the Environmental Working Group was born around the same time. I thought, at the time, GREAT, THERE IS SOMEONE TO BLAME!!! I could turn my anger and frustration against something, and feel like I was fighting for my health and my future health as well as that of all who I cared for, and about (trust me I was doing all the drs recommended, and fighting with all I had).
HOWEVER, through my personal journey I discovered that one of the first studies* to link a particular ingredient or class of ingredients (parabens) was flawed. The Darbre study; the research study that originally raised the issue of parabens possible link to breast cancer.Phillipa Darbre’s findings demonstrated, in a study of 20 subjects, that parabens can be found intact in the human breast. But the researchers themselves noted the following crucial facts: The study was small, there were no controls, normal breast tissue was not studied to determine comparative data, no other parts of the body were studied, and the source of the parabens was not identified.
As I continued to search and seek out more information, I discovered scholar.google.com, a site where you can basically find any published study on almost any subject. I have a medical dictionary (almost went to med school), and used it to ensure I understood what I was reading. Of course there is conflicting information, BUT the BIG DEAL HERE IS THERE IS MORE INDEPENDENT RESEARCH (NOT PAID FOR BY ANY COMPANY) THAT SUPPORTS THAT THERE IS NOT A DIRECT LINK TO PARABENS THAT CONCLUSIVELY LINK THEM TO CANCERS.
Nowhere do the original researchers reach the conclusion or state that parabens in cosmetics are cancer-causing, however, they do provide the warning that the issue needs additional study.
I applaud research and know that things can change, but in the case of parabens, the link has not been proven during, nor since my original diagnosis, and is greatly exaggerated by the EWG and many other sites purporting to know the TRUTH.
Parabens are found in greater concentrations than cosmetics in a myriad of consumables, including fruits, vegetables and drinks. Some everyday items replete with parabens and endocrine disruptors include soybeans, carrots, peanuts, corn, strawberries, blueberries, black tea and green tea, to list only a few. Many of the parabens found naturally in foods do have an estrogenic effect when tested. Yet, parabens found in cosmetics are 100,000 times weaker than estradiol, the estrogen naturally produced by the body.
And for those who feel that I am a shill for the cosmetics industry, please recognize the below findings:
The ACS. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has concluded, based on its research findings, that there is not good science to support a claim that the use of parabens in cosmetics can increase an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer.
The FDA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began studying the effects of parabens in response to the outcry of their potential estrogenic effect and link to breast cancer.The FDA states that parabens are safe for use in cosmetics, and it also says that, based on the weight of all the current scientific evidence, there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of products containing parabens.
The CIR. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an organization that reviews and assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased and expert manner, consolidated more than 265 studies in The Journal of Toxicology that noted a women’s daily cosmetic regimen using products that contain parabens caused no adverse reproductive effects and confirmed the safety of parabens.
A study in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology stated that, in order to obtain an estrogenic effect from parabens, which could be potentially harmful, the dosage would have to be 25,000 times higher than that used to preserve products. The same research states that estrogenic effects caused by doses of parabens received from consumer products are insignificant compared to natural estrogens and other xenoestrogens, meaning that people are exposed to more estrogens from a myriad of other sources and in larger doses than from cosmetics.
So, from my experience, I can say I am healthy, cancer free and still using cosmetics, skin care, fragrance, deodorants etc. I did not stop using my products and feel that if your personal belief is to use natural ingredients and avoid “chemical”, I urge the reader to understand that EVERYTHING HAS A CHEMICAL NAME, natural or synthetically created, and natural is not exclusively safer for you.
Cosmetic companies and cosmetic chemists are not trying to kill us for the all mighty dollar, first of all, that would be killing the “goose that lays the golden egg”. So, please do your research, but use sound science as your guide, not fear mongers.
If this information changes, I will be the first to say I was wrong, will the EWG and others do the same?
Chandra Bredel, LE
EJ Routledge, et al, Some alkyl hydroxyl benzoate preservatives (parabens) are estrogenic, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 153 12–19 (1998)
www.newscientist.com/article/dn4555-cosmetic-chemicals-found-in-breat-%20tumours.html (Accessed May 7, 2010)
P Darbre, et al, Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors, J of Applied Toxicology, 24 5–13 (2004)
P Darbre, Best Pract Res, J of Clin Endocrinol Metab 20 1 (2006)
P Darbre and P Harvey, Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human risks, J of Toxicology 10 1002–1358 (2008)
PD Dabre, A Aljarrah, WR Miller, NG Coldham, MJ Sauer, and GS Pope, Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors, J of Applied Toxicology 24 5–13 (2004)
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www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-para.html (Accessed May 7, 2010)
Final amended report, Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, Amended Safety Assessment (of Parabens), Int J Toxicol 27(Suppl 4) 1–82 (2008)
JR Byford, Oestrognic activity of parabens in MCF7 human breast cancer cell, J of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 80 49–60 (2002)