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I keep hearing about parabens in cosmetics. What are they and should I be avoiding them?
Written by Dr. Anita Fofie   

Great question, and very controversial. But before you go throwing out hundreds of dollars of skincare products, deodorants, and cosmetics, let's go over a few facts.

Fact: parabens are beneficial. Yes, parabens serve to control the growth of bacteria, mold, and fungus in personal care products. Without them, that mascara you love would be overrun with nasty bugs, which could be more immediately harmful to your health than any parabens might be.

Myth: parabens cause cancer.

Fact: parabens have been shown to be present in breast cancer tissue. However, the study that reported this finding did not test for parabens in non-breast cancer patients for fair comparison. The study also made no claims that the presence of parabens caused cancers.

Fact: parabens do mimic estrogen in the body and certain cancers are estrogen sensitive. However, the estrogen effect of most parabens is about 10,000 times weaker than the soy milk in your Starbuck's latte. The US FDA and our Health Canada equivalent in a comprehensive cosmetic ingredient review have stated a safe paraben exposure limit of 25% in personal care products. In most of today's cosmetics, paraben levels range from 0.01 to 0.3%.

Myth: all natural or organic means totally safe. Plants and herbs are natural, but can have very potent effects on our hormones. Licorice root, ginseng, and red clover have all been shown to induce the growth of cancer cells in the lab.

Myth: parabens are unnatural chemicals. The fact is foods such as flax, berries, cucumbers, carrots and soy beans contain parabens and other agents that mimic estrogens.

Should you avoid parabens? Well, it’s a personal choice much like being vegan. But whatever choice you make, now you have some of the facts.

Dr. Anita Fofie -

A graduate of Yale University and a fellow in aesthetic medicine, Anita Fofie, MD is the owner and founder of the Dermix Institute of Aesthetic Medicine in downtown Vancouver’s English Bay specializing in nonsurgical facial and body rejuvenation. To make an appointment for a free consultation at Dermix, please call 604.652.4SPA or visit to book your visit online.