Since Dr. Philippa Darbre published her 2004 paper that described the discovery of parabens in breast tumours this preservative has become unacceptable as a preservative for “natural products”. Indeed we have pretty much stopped using it as it is always at the top of our customers “ingredients not to be used” list.
Regrettably Dr. Darbres report was flawed and has been dismissed as, at best, misleading by regulatory and scientific bodies around the globe maintaining that there is no evidence linking parabens to cancer.
The study received extensive press coverage, with few accounts pointing out that there had been no control group. What should be noted is that since parabens are widely used in foods, drugs and cosmetics so they can conceivably be detected in almost everyone.
Although Darbre admitted that the presence of parabens did not prove they caused the tumours, she did alarm women by pointing out that these preservatives have oestrogen-like activity and that such activity has been linked to breast cancer. What she failed to mention was that the estrogenic activity of the various parabens is thousands of times less than that of estrogenic substances found in foods such as soybeans, flax, alfalfa and chickpeas, or indeed of the oestrogen produced naturally in the body.
It really is common sense to realise that applying a skin lotion or cream containing parabens at a low concentration (usually less than 0.8%) cannot possibly be as harmful (if any harm exists) as eating it in everyday foods.
Parabens have been used since the 1950’s. The worry is that all of the replacements we now use have not been tested for as long and may possibly be harmful in ways that are yet to be discovered.
Parabens do occur naturally and can be found in Blueberries for example, but they have to be produced synthetically to meet demand. However chemical safety does not depend on where it is made. Just because a substance occurs in nature it does not mean it is safe, nor is a material produced in a laboratory necessarily harmful. Its chemical and biological properties depend on its molecular structure and the only way to evaluate these is through appropriate experimentation which in the case of parabens has been extensive.
Preservatives are vital to the safety of a product. Without proper preservation bacteria, yeasts and moulds can and will grow in most products and some of these can be detrimental to our health. We will always endeavour to use the safest raw materials to make the best products. Unfortunately due to misleading information we have all but lost one of the safest and best.