Parabens are a group of preservatives containing methane, ethane or propanol. They are organic substances that can be found for example in blueberries (organic parabens are metabolized properly when taken), but 90% of parabens used are synthetic, ie they are artificially synthesized and don´t have an organic origin.
Parabens are used not only as preservatives in cosmetic toothpaste, creams, deodorants, shampoos, children cosmetics, gels, lubricants, toners, makeup or nail polish, but also to preserve pastries, ready meals, soft drinks, sauces and even fresh meat. They are also used for the composition of various pharmaceutical products such as cough syrups, antacids, vaginal fungicides, antibiotics and paracetamol and ibuprofen compositions.
Parabens have a protective and preservative function to prevent infection with microorganisms (microbes), fungus or bacteriae. They are widely used in cosmetics, approximately 70-90% of cosmetic products often consumed.
Parabens are substances approved by the European and Spanish health authorities and are listed as products with low toxicity and safe, because our body is able to absorb and metabolize this material and remove quickly.
In 2004 a study (conducted by oncologists at the University of Reading, Edinburgh) was performed with cancerous tissue. They found that in 90% of samples analyzed from patients with breast cancer there were traces of parabens. After several subsequent studies, any conclusion has not been yielded about how the parabens affect the development of breast cancer, although some scientists indicate that parabens have an action that mimics estrogen (sex hormones, steroids), and this could contribute to the development of cancerous tumors.
On the other hand, several studies have concluded that parabens are well absorbed by the intestinal tract and perfectly eliminated in the urine, but when absorbed through the skin (when used externally), it seems that its elimination is not so simple and fast.
As we say, at this moment there is no conclusive study that warns about the use of parabens, and for health authorities parabens remain as a “non-toxic” product. But despite this, there different studies worldwide still analyzing their long-term effects, especially in its application in child cosmetics, antiperspirants and nail polish.
Parabens, like most of the additives (preservatives, colorings, flavorings, antioxidants, emulsifiers, sweeteners, thickeners, etc.) were classified as “non-toxic” in preliminary studies, and companies began using them industrially without compunction. However, it hasn´t been assessed yet the potential effects of these chemicals in a long term basis in different health states, in high quantities or in combination with other chemicals. As in many other cases, industry and consumption require a production rate that makes products to get into the markets without sufficient study time and without taking into account many variables.
On the other hand, the problem of almost all additives, not only of parabens, is that they take part of the 99% of the products we consume every day. So these compounds are accumulated in our body at a higher rate than our body is able to assimilate. Once again it seems that the problem is not the product itself, but from its indiscriminate use and our consumption volume.
Organic products, including natural cosmetics, contain no parabens or other synthetic chemicals such as paraffins or perfumes. Because the body does not remove easily and quickly parabens absorbed by the skin, it is clear that it is not advisable to use products of any kind to be administered topically (sun creams, perfumes, cosmetics) that contain these chemicals.