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Are Preservatives Used In Beauty And Personal Care Products Safe?

Preservatives are not only used in food. They are also used in everything from shampoo to makeup to help make these products last for a longer period of time. All commercial bath, beauty, and personal care products use chemical preservatives.

While these chemicals work effectively to prolong the shelf-life of products and to prevent products from developing things like mildew, bacteria buildup, and mold, some are actually believed to have negative health side effects that can cause long-term trouble. Often, it is because of chemicals like these that many people decide to make the switch to organic beauty products.

Even though further study is needed to determine the full effects of the chemical ingredients in commercial products, many people do not wish to subject themselves to chemicals that could possibly be dangerous. Especially when they are contained in products that are used on the skin on a daily basis. When chemicals are absorbed by the skin they are taken into the blood stream and can affect vital organs.

Some common preservatives in commercial products include:

- DMDM Hydantoin
- Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
- Imidazolidinyl Urea

DMDM Hydantoin
This preservative works by releasing formaldehyde into products. The formaldehyde is preserves the products, but it is also well known for being an irritant. Formaldehyde releasing preservatives like DMDM Hydantoin are largely restricted in Europe and Asia, and are more commonly used in America. One major reason for their restriction is that formaldehyde is considered by the EPA to be a probable carcinogen.

Strangely, even though it is used in many skin care products it is known for causing skin irritations including dermatitis. Along with this, it is believed to be an immune system toxicant and an eye, ear, and lung irritant.

Imidazolidinyl Urea
This is also a formaldehyde releasing preservative. It actually works with parabens–chemicals that are also believed to have negative health benefits–to provide an antibiotic front against things like yeast, mold, and bacteria. But again, the formaldehyde it releases is a known irritant and probable carcinogen.

Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
This ingredient is actually used often in skin care products labeled as being “gentle.” Yet, in many cosmetic ingredient reviews this chemical preservative has been shown to be a toxicant and skin allergen. For example, it is known to be a skin irritant that can cause contact dermatitis in many of its users.

Next time you are buying beauty or personal care items, take a look at each products ingredients labels and try to avoid using products that contain ingredients that could be hazardous to your health.

Parabens in Skin Care and Cosmetics – A Necessary Evil?

What are parabens?

Since the 1930′s, parabens have been widely used as preservatives in cosmetics and skin care products. Just like our perishable food, preservatives are required to protect the contents against microbial action that may cause decomposition. Due to its low cost and high efficacy, parabens are strongly favored and this class of compounds comes in the form of methyl, propyl, butyl – the difference being the number of carbons attached to the central molecule. In the early 2000s, there was a great cause for concern regarding the use of parabens because it was believed to imitate the behavior of estrogen – a female hormone known to contribute to formation of breast cancer tissues. Up to sixty percent of breast tumors were found in the upper underarm and studies suggested that the link between parabens (from deodorants) and cancer was highly probable.

A strong correlation but not a causal link

According to the Journal of Applied toxicology, in 2004, Philip W. Harvey and David J. Everett discovered traces of parabens in breast cancer tumor. The theory suggested that the application of underarm deodorants and cosmetics was causing breast cancer. Immediately the news sent a shockwave throughout the beauty industries and customers began to panic. Despite establishing a strong link between parabens and cancer, scientists were unable to prove whether there was a direct causal effect. In this debatable study, only 20 samples were collected from the patients and many questions were left unanswered. A correlation does not necessarily mean that parabens in skin care products cause breast cancer, instead several other unknown variables could have played a role, i.e. family genes, environment and other synthetic chemicals.

100% all natural!

Keep in mind that parabens exist in the food that we eat everyday. Methylparaben and ethylparaben are omnipresent not just in canned food, but are also naturally synthesized in fruits such as carrots, onions and strawberries. Similar to its role in cosmetic and skin care products, parabens act as natural preservatives to stave off microbial activity. In a surprising finding, methylparaben was actually found to play a role in dogs’ sexual attraction. The theory that was proposed remain unclear but it was believed to be involved in the complex odor secreted by female dogs.


In today’s market, there has been a wide variety of “paraben-free” products available for consumers. Most of these products contain natural preservatives extracted from herbs and plants. However they usually come at a hefty price and its anti-microbial capability is still inferior to parabens. Until more conclusive studies and concrete evidence have been established, many experts in the toxicology field remain skeptical about the harmful effects and reassure the public that paraben is safe for human-beings.

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