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Here’s what the FDA has to say about the subject. Their position is best summed up in the following quote, “FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of 158 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products cosmetics containing parabens.” But they are still looking at data.
And the primary governmental agency (in the United States) that receives money to research such questions, the National Institute for Health, has this position paper. Basically, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.
Why do people think parabens are bad?
So where did the furor about parabens and cancer come from? In 2004, Dr Philippa Darbre at the University of Reading published a study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology that said his group tested 20 different human breast tumors and found parabens in all of them. Neither he nor anyone else could explain how they got there or why they were there. They also couldn’t say whether normal tissue had parabens. This raised the possibility that the parabens could have something to do with the cancer, but no one could explain what was going on. And since then, there still hasn’t been an explanation. This doesn’t mean parabens have anything to do with cancer.
We just can’t say they don’t.
So, what do we think?
Here at the Beauty Brains, we have to side with the majority of the scientific research. Namely, at the moment there’s no significant reason to be concerned.
The notion that parabens are a major cause of breast cancer is just not true!
It’s possible that they might play a role in breast cancer but there is no conclusive evidence that supports this idea. No matter how bad parabens are, microbes are much worse.
Many cosmetic industry suppliers are offering alternatives to parabens.
Privately, these companies acknowledge that parabens are more effective. They also do not believe there are any real safety issues, but it is an opportunity to create new products so they are taking it. Unfortunately, every other effective preservative such as DMDM Hydantoin (a formaldehyde releasing Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products - 159 ingredient) or Kathon (synthetic) have potential safety issues. And suggested alternatives like grapefruit seed extract · phenoxyethanol · potassium sorbate · sorbic acid · tocopherol (vitamin E) · vitamin A (retinyl) · vitamin C (ascorbic acid) don’t really work too well. The available preservatives aren’t perfect, but they are the best there is. And they are certainly better than using nothing.
Bacteria, yeast, and mold could really kill you!
The Beauty Brains bottom line.
Preservative alarmists may have a point and the industry is constantly on the lookout for new, effective ingredients. They just haven’t found any. But the risk posed from these ingredients is so small that it’s not worth worrying about. There are much more critical things you can do to avoid cancer like not smoking, avoiding excessive sun exposure, exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced, low fat diet. Don’t waste your energy fretting about the preservatives in your cosmetics.
Top 5 Myths About Mineral Oil Part 1
We often see the advice that people should avoid mineral oil at all costs. This idea is propogated by numerous “natural” companies. Well, this advice is just bogus. It’s not based on any scientific studies. Mineral oil is a perfectly fine ingredient and has been used in cosmetics for over 100 years.
Here are the top 5 Myths that companies tell people to make them afraid of mineral oil. In part 2 we look at why “natural” companies would be trying to scare you.
1. Mineral oil is contaminated with carcinogens While it’s true that some petroleum derivatives contain carcinogenic materials (like some polycyclic aromatic compounds) the mineral oil that is used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry is highly refined and purified. It’s purity is even regulated by the US FDA and other international regulatory 160 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products agencies. There is absolutely no evidence that cosmetic grade mineral oil causes cancer. And there has been plenty of testing done to ensure that fact.
We could find no published reports in any of the dermatological or medical journals indicating a link between mineral oil and any forms of cancer.
2. Mineral oil dries the skin and causes premature aging Mineral oil works as a barrier between the skin and the air. It acts as an occlusive agent which prevents water from naturally leaving your body through your skin. It will not dry out your skin or cause premature aging.
Quite the contrary. It will provide moisturization.
3. Mineral oil robs the skin of vitamins Since many vitamins are oil based, people assume that mineral oil will pull them out of your skin. There is no legitimate scientific evidence that this is true. Mineral oil has no effect on the vitamin levels in your skin.
4. Mineral oil prevents absorption of collagen from collagen moisturizers Collagen in your skin lotions and moisturizers is too big to actually penetrate your skin. Therefore, mineral oil will have no effect on whether the collagen gets absorbed or not.
5. Mineral oil causes acne In some people, mineral oil can exaserbate acne problems. However, most people will not experience any problems.
So, if it is not for safety concerns, why would companies be telling you to avoid mineral oil? We’ll look at that in part 2 of our series.
The Beauty Brains bottom line Mineral oil is NOT bad for you or your skin. It is one of the best ingredients available in skin lotions and moisturizers. It is also 100% natural taken directly out of our dear Mother Earth.
In part one of this series we looked at some of the things that are said about mineral oil and examined whether they were true or not. In part two we’ll propose a few reasons why companies would try to propagate myths about mineral oil.
1. They want you to buy from them instead of the big manufacturers This is the primary explanation for mineral oil bashing. Little companies have to find a way to convince consumers to use their products instead of the less expensive, name brands produced by large manufacturers. They can’t possibly advertise as much as the big guys so they need other ways to motivate consumers. Spreading rumors, half truths, and lies about mineral oil (and a host of other ingredients) will scare a significant amount of people.
And most people don’t have the time or scientific background to question what they hear. They’ll just believe a myth about mineral oil causing cancer and avoid it at all costs. The lack of skepticism in our country is extremely troubling to this half of the Beauty Brains.
2. They need to have a reason why their products don’t work as well The truth is mineral oil is one of the best functioning skin care ingredients available. Every cosmetic chemist who reads studies published in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists knows it. Other oils work too, but not as well as mineral oil.
When chemists are told they need to create a formula without mineral oil to satisfy a marketing story, they can’t produce the best functioning product out there. It’s a bit like trying to make omletes with egg beaters. Sure, it tastes like an omlete but it’s not nearly as good as on made with real eggs. That’s how it is with these “natural” type products.
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3. They think natural things are inherently good You find this notion throughout society but especially in the areas of cosmetics. In the US some people automatically believe that something taken directly from nature is better than something that is man-made or synthetic.
Of course, there is no evidence supporting this notion and plenty of evidence to show that it is wrong. Natural is NOT necessarily better! Snake venom is natural. Cyanide is natural. Uranium is natural. Natural can be both good and bad. Similarly, synthetic things can be both good and bad.
The thing that is most amusing is that mineral oil is “natural”. It is pulled right out of Mother Earth and purified for use in your favorite cosmetic. There is no synthetic process, just simple distillation of naturally occurring oil. Even an ingredient like Panthenol requires some chemical modification. Not mineral oil.
Just natural purification.
4. They believe all of the myths about mineral oil Despite the fact that there are some companies that are just trying to scare and lie to you, there are some people that honestly believe all they’ve read about the evils of mineral oil. And who could blame them? We all lead busy lives and when you hear bits of information that sound plausible, you don’t have time to read the supporting research. Consequently, a manufacturer might believe they’ve found a much better product when they really haven’t.
People want to believe they can solve other people’s problems. Even if their solution is based on a delusion.
The Beauty Brains bottom line There are many reasons that myths about mineral oil continue. Chalk some up to naivete but others are downright fraud. You can believe whatever you want, just don’t accept everything you hear about chemicals. You could be buying in to someone else’s delusion. And that will cost you.
Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products - 163 Should You Be Worried About Spermicide in Your Spa Cream?
Teresa has Trepidations:
I was shopping for high end spa products and noticed that their exfolliant cream contains Nonoxynol-9, a famously debated spermicide ingredient! I’m assuming it’s not there to keep my freshly smoothed skin from becoming pregnant. So why is it in my creme and is there any downside to using it?
The Right Brain calms her down:
Take a deep breath Teresa, there’s nothing to worry about.
Some creams contain detergents Nonoxynol-9 (or N-9) is in your spa cream to help the dissolve the oil soluble ingredients in the cream base. That’s because it’s a surfactant (which is short for surface active agent) which is just a fancy way of saying it’s a type of detergent. The cool thing is that N-9 is a nonionic surfactant which is a special type that doesn’t create a lot of lather. Otherwise the spa cream would get all foamy when you rub it into your skin.
Detergents can be spermicidal It just so happens that N-9’s ability to dissolve oil into water has a very important side effect – it can also dissolve the acrosomal membranes of sperm, which stops the little guys from swimming. That’s why it’s used in many spermicidal creams, jellies, foams, gel, film, and suppositories. So, Nserves double duty: shy spa-cream emulsifier by day; sultry sperm-killer by night.
Finally, I feel compelled to point out that this discussion reminds me of the Seinfeld episode about being “sponge-worthy.”
The Right Brain gestates this reply:
Experts agree that you should limit unnecessary drug exposure when you’re pregnant. Here’s what we found out from two expert sources: the American Pregnancy Association and American Academy of Dermatologists.
Five Facts About Pregnancy and Skin Care Ingredients
1. Retin–A (Isotretinoin) is a prescription acne medication that can cause cardiac problems in a fetus.
2. Minoxidil (aka Rogaine) the over-the-counter hair loss drug, is also known to contribute to birth defects.
3. Fluconazole is a topical antifungal drug that can also be teratogenic (causes birth defects).
4. Sunscreens and Sunless Tanners appear to be fine. There have been no reports of babies born with problems related to the mother’s use of sunscreens. In fact, since UV radiation may cause folic acid deficiency, which can lead to neural tube defects like spina bifida, sunscreens could actually help!
5. Salicylic acid facial products are apparently low risk as well. But muscle creams containing a related compound (methyl salicylate) can be dangerous if overused, even if you’re not pregnant.
5 Ways Beauty Products Can Go Bad
Karen is quizzical:
Do beauty products have expiration dates hidden on the package? Whenever I see a great deal for an expensive beauty product on eBay or at a discount store like Marshalls, I wonder if the product has expired and is no longer as effective.
The Right Brain responds:
There’s no way to tell if a cosmetic has expired just by looking at the package, but we can tell you what to look for when products go bad.
1. Changes in odor Fragrances are made of dozens of different ingredients that can react with the rest of the product. It’s not surprising then, that the fragrance is often the first thing to go bad. A little fragrance fading is totally normal, but if you detect a sour or rancid odor it may be a signal that something is seriously wrong.
2. Color shifting The color of the product is very sensitive to light, so it’s not unusual for cosmetics in clear packaging to experience a shift in shade. Slight color changes don’t necessarily mean there’s anything functionally wrong the product but you certainly don’t want your red lipstick to become to orangey.
3. Change in texture Changes in the consistency of a product may be subtle but significant.
For example, if your skin lotion looks exceptionally thick or thin, or if it appears too grainy, this may be an early indicator of emulsion instability.
166 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products This means the oil and water soluble chemicals are separating. Not good!
4. Microbial contamination If you see any black spots or fuzzy growth in your product, it could be contaminated with bacteria or fungus. Get rid of it immediately or you may be at risk for infection! And by the way, you should never dilute a product with water just so you can get the last little bit out of the bottle. Adding water can dilute the preservative system which can allow potentially dangerous bugs to grow.