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New Research Links Parabens to Birth Defects

bottles in a science lab labeled with different parabens
July 18, 2016 Reviewed by Marta 3 Comments

The case against paraben preservatives in personal care and beauty products is mounting with a new study from SUNY Downstate Medical Center's School of Public Health linking them to reproductive defects in newborns.

The study found “a link between women with higher levels of butylparaben, which is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics, and the following birth outcomes: shorter gestational age at birth, decreased birth weight, and increased odds of preterm birth."

Butylparaben is an oil-soluble preservative of the paraben family (which commonly include all, methylparabens, ethylparabens, and propylparabens). The SUNY study also claimed that propylparaben is responsible for decreased body length at birth.

The cosmetic industry body, the CIR Expert Panel, has long maintained that parabens are safe used in low percentages (.04% - .08%). However, in 2015 a scientist at UC Berkeley into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk.

The Berkeley researchers looked at human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which tends to grow and spread aggressively, and the impact of exposure to parabens. The increased stimulation of breast cancer cell growth was significant and the paraben dose was very low. The conclusion was that parabens may be more potent at lower doses than previous studies have suggested. (source).

Parabens have been controversial since a 2004 study conducted by Dr. Philippa Darbre found traces of parabens in breast cancer tissues. The study was criticized for not demonstrating cause and effect, only the mere presence of parabens. In 2012, Darbre researched a larger sample and claims that she not only repeated her 2004 results but found that paraben levels in the samples were now four times higher.

The SUNY study also singled out triclosan as a reproductive toxin. Triclosan is restricted in personal care products in the EU.

  • November 8, 2016

    by Buffy

    Thank you Marta for the response. I am constantly using this website and I have a bunch of pages bookemarked. My dermatologist has no idea what ingredients do let alone are harmful and she basically said I know more than her. Prental doctors also have no concern or opinion, saying there is no proof. One doctor also pointed out, haven't you already done damage from using products for the last 10 years? Which again yes I wonder that myself.
    With out the plastics my makeup dosent last or hold, and I'm okay with that for now, but I've lost some of the joy in my makeup collecting and I don't know if I can recommend products to people when it's obvious this stuff isn't regulated the same way our food is. I have a few things I use now and have figured out that my contact saline solution mixed with eye shadow tends to help the shadow last without creasing as much.
    Does anyone have any info of how prior use affected birth weights and fetuses? I am now 15 weeks along.

  • September 3, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Buffy, congratulations on your new arrival! You don't have to give up cosmetics, there are plenty of brands that have safe formulations. You need to get wise to the harmful ingredients - which you are doing - and avoid them. Here is an article with more information on pregnancy and safe cosmetics:

    Also we point out dubious ingredients in all our reviews and select those that are as safe as possible for the shop. Finally, if you are not sure of an ingredient, you can look it up in our ingredients index which has safety and uses for thousands of ingredients.

  • September 3, 2016

    by Buffy

    How bad is it that I am 5 weeks pregnant, at 37, and I been using high end cosmetics for the last decade? Even though I am a facialist, and I research a good deal about ingredients, looking up these toxins has me in a tizzy. Stopping my makeup now maybe better than continuing to put sillicones, and paraban on my skin, but in theory haven't I already done the damage? I eat well and kicked aluminum based deodorants year ago. But my hair care, makeup, and skin care are loaded with these fda in small dose deemed safe ingredients. I'm trying to have a healthy baby at my age. It's nearly impossible to be sure. Anyone have any research or insights about being pregnant and stopping use of cosmetics? Thanks in advance.

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