Would You Like Increased Skin Aging and DNA Damage with Your Summer Tan?

I was surfing Wikipedia recently when I came across the following:

Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin may react with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. [1][2]

I remember reading something a few years ago about parabens causing cancer, but no one seems to know if it's true or not.  There's a lot of conflicting information out there.  In trying to find more information on the web, I kept coming across that line above about a possible skin reaction with methylparaben when exposed to ultraviolet light.

I always try to  check the ingredients list of things I buy.  It helps me keep away from products that I'm sensitive to.  I reached for some sunblock the other day, since it was a billion degrees outside, and I decided to check the label for methylparaben.  I am after all putting this on my skin, and then going out into the sun.  Sure enough, it was in there.

From what I understand, parabens are commonly used in products to keep fungus from growing, thereby extending their shelf life.  It's used in everything from processed foods to skin care items...  Including apparently, my sunblock.  Just to be clear, this is the substance I put on my SKIN when I go into the SUN, and you're telling me that it may be bad for my skin when used in the sun?  This isn't something I've heard on the news, and it's not like there are any warnings on the package.  Am I supposed to read every page on Wikipedia to see what I should be avoiding in life?

A quick glance through the Household Products Database listing for items with Methylparaben brings up a lot of hair dyes, deodorants, household cleaning products, and even dog shampoos.  But it's the ones that are specifically designed for skin that will also probably see sunlight, that concern me in particular:

Or how about anti-aging creams that may actually do the exact opposite, causing "skin aging and DNA damage":

parabensMost of the list is made up of hair dye products. We should know by now that hair dye is bad for you.  However, we don't usually apply hair dye daily, and not to our faces, and certainly not out in the sun.  I use several of the items above every day... Or at least I used to.  I'm going to cut back for now, until more information on this subject becomes available.

Some other interesting items containing methylparabel are K-Y Liquid Personal Lubricant and Four Paws Petdental Poultry Flavor Toothpaste for Dogs.  Although with those two, I don't foresee a lot of exposure to UVB rays.

Methylparaben is considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for food and cosmetics.  It occurs naturally in foods such as blueberries.  Toxicologists tend to believe that if something can be found in nature, that means it can't hurt you.  I can't remember the last time I rubbed blueberries on my arms and face before going to the beach.  Maybe just because something is safe for us to eat, doesn't mean it's safe to wear out in the sun.

Studies and Background Information

  1. Methylparaben potentiates UV-induced damage of skin keratinocytes
  2. Combined Activation of Methyl Paraben by Light Irradiation and Esterase Metabolism toward Oxidative DNA Damage

It should be noted that other parabens (propylparaben, benzylparaben, ethylparaben, heptylparaben, etc.) have no serious warnings or studies showing specific negative effects, at least not on Wikipedia.  It's been estimated that parabens are used in over 13,000 products.

Experiments have shown that all parabens have weak estrogenic activity, and can act as estrogen mimickers.  Many people are concerned that extra estrogen added to the body from the use of these products, may increase the risk of breast cancer.  Studies, like the one below, claim that is highly unlikely.

Studies are still ongoing as to whether there is a link between cancer and parabens.  Also, studies have yet to be done showing how these chemicals react with the other 126 chemicals we come in contact with each day from personal care products, (not including the unknown number of ingredients in "fragrance").

Regardless of the outcome of any future research, the conclusions drawn from the two skin damage studies mentioned above are pretty convincing for me.  At the very least, I'm going to be buying myself some new sunblock, without methylparaben in it.

Have more information or an opinion on the subject?  Leave a comment below.

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