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Anti Aging Skin Care : How Dangerous Are Parabens?

Filed under: Parabens - Danger? by admin

There are literally thousands of anti aging skin care creams and lotions on the market and many of them contain parabens to prolong their shelf life. The beauty industry has used them for years, but are they really safe? Recent controversy suggests that there may be a darker side to this popular ingredient that has been linked by some to hormone changes, cancer, rashes and allergic reactions. Read about what parabens are, why they’re in the cosmetics we buy everyday and the battle of the scientists for the facts surrounding their safety. This should give you information to begin deciding whether its safest to ditch products containing parabens, or carry on using them as normal. How big is the topic? Here’s how the media is handling the issue, courtesy of You Tube:

Parabens are chemicals the cosmetics industry put into anti aging skin care products to quite simply extend their shelf life, maximising profits for both manufacturers and resellers. If a cream goes out of date within 12 weeks, for example,  its going to be hard to convince retailers to stock it– when the cream goes out of date, the retailer has wasted their money  on it. The good news for consumers is parabens have anti fungal and antibacterial properties, so the creams stay fresher longer and less likely to become harmful through microbial or mitotic colonisation. Chemically speaking, the ones used in cosmetics are all synthetic, laboratory produced esters from para-hydroxybenzoic acid. They are a low cost ingredient for manufacturers. To recognise them on cosmetics labelling, look out for methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben, the most commonly used (1). There’s often more than one kind in anti aging skin care products, or other cosmetics come to that.  The furore over their inclusion in cosmetics centres on whether or not they cause cancer.

The cosmetics industry has used them for years but recently scientific debate has turned to  their effects on hormones and even concerns they may be carcinogenic agents. America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has its hands tied, with no power to regulate what goes into cosmetics unless those ingredients are an already known poison or toxin.  Instead, the safety of parabens was reviewed in 1984 by the “industry sponsored organisation” Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and declared safe up to a concentration of 25% in cosmetic products. They are most likely today to be found at concentrations of 0.01 -0.03% (1). Here the picture becomes murky, because having passed safety tests with flying colours, the CIR then reopened the case for parabens in 2003. It began investigating the safety of   methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben so that “interested parties” could submit fresh evidence (1). Then, in 2005, the same agency re-opened the safety data files on parabens in cosmetics. Within a year they decided that the original evaluation was correct. Yet there were reports emerging of parabens playing some kind of role in the formation of breast cancers.

Dr Phillipa Dabre, Reading University (UK)

One scientist ringing alarm bells about parabens for almost a decade now is Phillipa Dabre, a senior oncology lecturer and cancer researcher at the UK’s University of Reading.  Dabre began working at Reading after 5 years as a researcher with the UK’s Imperial Cancer Research Fund (which later changed its name to Cancer research UK). She suggested a link between cancer and cosmetics as early as 2001 (2) , and her 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found parabens within the tissues of confirmed breast tumours, with fellow scientists calling for more research to determine what this meant for health (3).

Parabens exert an osetrogenic effect – anything which behave like an oestrogen (a naturally occurring hormone) encourages cellular growth. Cancers can be crudely characterised as collections of cells which grow in a totally uncontrolled way, without following the rules of what shape to become and when to stop growing. By contrast, healthy cells follow a regular lifecycle and grow in a pre-programmed way to result in a certain cellular structure.  Oestrogens have been proven in vitro to make breast cancer cells grow. Hence the concern that parabens in cosmetics might have the same effect if absorbed through the skin in people (3). The focus for Dabre was underarm deodorants and anti-perspirants, applied to the skin next to the upper right outside quadrant of the breast – the portion of the breast where most cancers were being found. From looking at aluminium in deodorants, she has extended her studies to include parabens and has now published over a dozen research articles since 2001 (2 – 15).The response by the scientific community and cancer organisations has been mixed, with others following her leads, and then again, some scientific teams totally rebuffing all her work.

Instead of a role for underarm products,  it was proposed that most cancers occur close to the arm pit in the upper right breast quadrant simply because that is where the breast tissue is most dense (16). The FDA points out on its website that no comparison was made to levels in healthy tissues and that the oetsrogenic effects of parabens were between 10,000 – 100,000 less potent than naturally occurring oestrogens (1). Another example is a 2008 article, stating clearly no link between underarm deodorants and antiperspirants and breast cancer (17). One example of how mainstream professional cancer research organisations are dealing with the information is Dabre’s former workplace, Cancer Research UK. Their website has a clear denial of a link, suggests the whole thing was started by hoax emails and the studies have not proved a link since. It also points out most modern underarm products are now paraben free (18). The picture then becomes more confusing.

Anti aging creams may contain parabens

On the other hand, Breast Cancer Action, an organization with its roots in a patients support group, devotes a page to finding paraben-free cosmetics (brands listed) and states parabens are both eostrogenic and “disruptive of hormone function”, along with the line “exposure to external oestrogens has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer” (19). The USA’s National Cancer Institute, however, denies any such proof has been found, although it does appear in favour of more robust research as studies have provided “conflicting” evidence on breast cancer and antiperspirant/deodorant products (20). The picture is conflicting to say the least, with high profile institutes refuting any such link, it is interesting to note meantime, with her professional reputation on the line, Dabre has certainly not fallen silent.

In 2009, she published a further article entitled ‘Underarm Antiperspirants/Deodorants And Breast Cancer’, pointing out the location of cancers in the upper right quadrant of the breast had increased through the 1980s and 1990s (18). She hypothesises this is totally at odds with the theory of more tissue available for cancer to invade in that quadrant – the body does not change its anatomical structure, so surely something else must be at play. Dabre’s line of enquiry points to women today applying a huge range of products to the breast and underarm area, such as body lotions, sprays, moistursising creams, bust firming creams, and so on. Nothing is rinsed away and unlike anything we eat, the stuff absorbed by skin doesn’t have toxins filtered out by our digestive processes (metabolic). Dabre points to several studies which found that chemicals absorbed through the skin had at least an effect on the hormonal system and earlier incidence of diagnosed breast cancer linked to more frequent anti perspirant use (22). Her concern appears consistent, pointing out that no long term studies have been done on the effects of using a ‘cocktail’ of chemicals, such as those found in cosmetics, directly onto the skin over a number of years. Her explanation of the apparent safety of the ingredients is that they are researched in isolation, not in the mixes that are found in products and not with overlapping product use, as happens in real life (20). Dabre has repeatedly called for more research into the subject, with reference to the effects of parabens and paraben mixtures on increased growth of cancer cell lines in vitro (20).

Today, the FDA is still sticking to the line that cosmetics containing parabens are safe for everyday consumer use and that it will monitor and update the public as necessary (1). Cosmetics companies are divided, with some being quick to realise that a market exists for concerned consumers and launching high profile ‘paraben free’ products. Many other companies continue to use them, as there is no law to stop them and as yet, any theories of harm are not yet accepted 100% by the scientific community by any means. Our bottom line is as always, to play safe until such time as there has been a thorough agreement on what hazards, if any, parabens pose. There are plenty of creams, lotions and so on in today’s market that are paraben free, the downside is, this may increase the price tag compared to the very cheapest brands. Then again, given the eye watering prices of some of the higher end anti aging skin care products, you may find that switching to a ‘middle market’ paraben free brand actually saves you money.


1. FDA. Parabens. FDA [online]. Available at:


2. Darbre P, D, (2001).  Underarm cosmetics are a cause of breast cancer. European  Journal of  Cancer Prevention. 10:389-393.

3. Harvey, P.W. & Everett, D.J. (2004). Significance of the Detection of Esters of p-Hydroxybenzoic Acid (Parabens) in Human Breast Tumours. Journal of  Applied Toxicology. 24, 1–4.

4. Darbre, P.D. (2001).  Underarm cosmetics are a cause of breast cancer. European  Journal of  Cancer Prevention.  10:389-393.

5. Darbre, P.D. (2003). Underarm cosmetics and breast cancer. Journal of  Applied Toxicology. 23:89-95.

6. Darbre,  P.D. (2005).  Recorded quadrant incidence of female breast cancer in Great Britain suggests a disproportionate increase in the upper outer quadrant of the breast. Anticancer Research.  25:2543-2550.

7. Darbre, P.D. (2006).  Environmental oestrogens, cosmetics and breast cancer.Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 20:121-143.

8. Harvey, P.W. & Darbre, P. (2004). Endocrine disrupters and human health: could oestrogenic chemicals in bodycare cosmetics adversely affect breast cancer incidence in women? A review of evidence and call for further research.  Journal of  Applied Toxicology. 24:167-176.

9. Darbre,  P.A., Harvey P.W. (2008).  Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. Journal of  Applied Toxicology. 28:561-578.

10. Darbre, P. D., Aljarrah, A., Miller, W.R., Coldham, N.G., Sauer, M.J. & Pope, G.S. (2004).  Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. Journal of  Applied Toxicology. 2004, 24:5-13.

11. Darbre, P.D. (2005).  Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. Journal of  Inorganic Biochemistry. 99:1912-1919.

12. Exley, C., Charles L.M., Barr, L., Martin, C., Polwart, A. & Darbre, P.D. (2007).  Aluminium in human breast tissue. Journal of  Inorganic Biochemistry 2007, 101:1344-1346.

13. Byford J.R., Shaw L.E., Drew M.G., Pope G.S., Sauer M.J. & Darbre P.D. (2002). Oestrogenic activity of parabens in MCF7 human breast cancer cells. Journal of  Steroid Biochemeistry &  Moecularl Biology.  80:49-60.

14. Darbre P.D., Byford J.R., Shaw L.E., Horton R.A., Pope G.S. & Sauer M.J. (2002). Oestrogenic activity of isobutylparaben in vitro and in vivo. Journal of  Applied Toxicology. 22:219-226.

15. Darbre P.D.,  Byford J.R., Shaw L.E., Hall S., Coldham N.G., Pope G.S. & Sauer M.J. (2003)   Oestrogenic activity of benzylparaben. Journal of  Applied Toxicology. 23:43-51.

16. Lee, H.S. (2005). Why is carcinoma of the breast more frequent in the upper outer quadrant? A case series based on needle core biopsy diagnoses.  The Breast
Volume 14, Issue 2, P.  151-152.

17. Namer M., Luporsi, E., Gligorov, J. , Lokiec, F. , Spielmann, M. (2008). The use of deodorants/antiperspirants does not constitute a risk factor for breast cancer. Bulletin du  Cancer.  95 (9) : 871-80. Available at:


18. Cancer Research UK. (2009). Deodorants and Cancer. [online]. Cancer Research UK Available at:


19. Breast Cancer Action. Paraben Free Cosmetics. Breast Cancer action [online]. Available at:


20. National Cancer Institute. (2008). Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer: Questions and Answers. US National Institutes of Health [online]. Available at:


21. Dabre, P. (2009). Underarm Antiperspirants/Deodorants And Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Research.  11(Suppl 3):S5. Available at:


22. McGrath,  K.G. (2003). An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 12:479-485.

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Anti Aging Skin Care: Are Eye Creams Just Rubbish?

Filed under: Anti Aging Eye Creams by admin

In terms of anti aging skin care around the eyes, the top problems most older people will complain about are getting rid of puffiness, dark circles and wrinkles. And you could easily spend some serious money for a product that does nothing for you. We give you some surprising facts about eye creams from consumer trials, an overview of some of the controversies, and an in depth look at one of the new ‘miracle products’ for dark circles and puffiness. We hope this thought provoking guide will give you more idea when it comes to shopping for eye creams to help you beat back time.

One way to judge whether any product works is to read consumer reviews. Individual reviews will of course, only reflect one person’s skin reaction to one particular product – and their expectations coupled with how much they paid. A better indicator is mass trials, like those found in popular newspapers and magazines. One survey worth mentioning is the amazing results of the UK’s Daily Mirror Beauty awards, in 2009 (1). Their number one mass market eye cream was astonishingly, a super cheap supermarket brand (Tescos Derma+). Reviewers liked its cool sensation and in blind tests, thought it was a higher end product retailing at around £20 (around $13) – it sold for £2 (around $3) a tube. Next was a paraben free product retailing at £8.99, (around $12.50) again, not a high end product and then there was the jaw dropper of the lot. Readers in the UK will be familiar with Aldi – a store so cheap, none of its brands are remotely recognisable, where for years you had to pay in cash only and it among the first to charge for grocery bags. A little like the runaway fast fashion story of the UK’s Primark, which has won awards for its fashion, most of which retails for under £10 (around $6-7), scarily regardless of the garment type, Aldi’s own brand £1.59 (around $2) anti aging eye cream scooped the third prize. A word of caution though from America’s ‘cosmetics cop’ Paula Begoun, on the cooling effects of creams.

Paula busts the myth that any cream, lotion or other product that causes tingling or cooling sensations is working effectively. Instead, she characterises the skin producing those sensations in reaction to the cream as a local irritant.

Paula echoes Giselle Mir, founder of Mir cosmetic line, in saying that over time irritation is ultimately damaging to skin and produces more markedly aged looking skin. Which is precisely the opposite of what those eye creams were sold to do. Another revelation from Paula is that we may all be getting sold hokum buying separate eye products. Paula reckons that if a face cream is of good enough quality, it should be safe and effective to use on the skin around the eyes. She feels that consumers are simply paying too much by purchasing separate eye area skin care products.

One ingredient touted as the answer to dark circles under the eyes is haloxyl™, a chemical compound patented by the Sederma company. It is advertised with a variety of opinion as to what it is it actually does. It is described as something that loosens and then eliminates darker blood pigments, and in some reviews, it even absorbs such pigments. The skin under the eyes is thin, which explains why you can see blood pigmentation there. It’s listed on sale as water, glycerin, steareth-20, N-hydroxysuccinimide, chrysin, palmitoyl Oligopeptide, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 – yes, a whole bunch of chemicals. It is worth noting hydroxysuccinimide, may act as an irritant. Brands using haloxyl™ include ‘Elite Serum’ (which we’ll come to in later, RRP $99/ around £62) , ‘Skindoctors’ (around £32.95/ around $50+), ‘Serious Skin Care Hi Bright’ (around $32.95/ around £20), and ‘Purity Dark Circles’ (around $32.95 / around £20). Again and again, resellers promote Sederma’s stated research of a 19 – 45% reduction in dark circles and puffiness in tests. What’s interesting about this product is its easy to buy as an isolated ‘active ingredient’, which does raise the question of consumers trying to save a few bucks with home chemistry –for a product that’s going near the eyes! Not recommended without professional training, to say the least.

Another patented product being bandied about is ‘Eyeliss™’, made by the same company. This compound also claims to be able to reduce dark circles and puffiness under the eyes. ‘Eyeliss™’ apparently contains something along the lines of water, glycerine, hesperidin methyl chalcone, steareth-20, dipeptide-2, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. Both ‘Eyeliss™’ and ‘Haloxyl™’ are using “peptide technology” – but what exactly does that mean? According to Drs. Dahen and Gruenwald, writing for a company selling them, peptides are short chain proteins which in essence, are used to programme skin cells to behave in certain ways (2). Within anti wrinkle formulations, peptides will typically aim to make maturing skin produce more collagen, the elastic fibre that keeps skin young looking. Aging skin produces less collagen as the years go by, so this would seem a desirable effect. The “technology” term is being used to describe the way peptides, short chain proteins, are synthesised to produce specific, local effects. Within eye creams, acetyl-tetrapeptide is being touted as having an effect on lymphatic flow, with a corresponding reduction in edema – meaning puffiness (2).
Which brings us to the ‘Elite Eye serum’.

It’s made by Sederma, and voted best eye product for dark circles and puffy eyes on www.eyeserum.com. Interestingly, its not quite possible to see which company runs that site when you visit it, and its glowing endorsement features prominently on the webpage for Sederma’s ‘Elite Serum’. Its also apparently been featured on Oprah, CNN, Dr Phil, and bizarrely, the food network, which appears to be about, well, food. The serum contains both ‘Haloxyl™’ and ‘Eyeliss™’, which it is claimed in tandem enhance the reduction of local undereye edema (puffiness). There is also ‘Argireline®’. This is an Acetyl (Hexa-) peptide. The serum also contains hyaluronic acid, which has been used for many years in higher end moisturisers. The website proudly displays this ABC television video on the wonders of hyaluronic acid:

Its worth noting that even the glowing ABC film makes reference to the holistic lifestyle of the healthy, smooth skinned octogenarians featured in the Japanese village, including their diet and lifestyle! Although Japanese manufacturers appear to be selling extracted hyaluronic acid in pill form, it may be that scientists are still discovering why it appears to exert some protective effects. Advocates of traditional medicines, such as herbalists, often take pains to point out that each herb contains a complex variety of chemical compounds that act synergistically together to create the herbs effects. Not only that but within traditional Chinese medicine, for example, herbs are most often used in formulas containing up to 20 herbs, creating thousands of compounds. Alongside the chemicals, there is also aloe vera and acia berry.

Both have been promoted as natural ‘wonder’ products, for skin healing and anti aging. Aloe vera is well known for its use as a soothing gel for sunburn, but not as well known for its applications in joint disorders such as arthritis. Along with many natural products, its efficacy is not a view endorsed by the mainstream medical community. Acai berry is another modern dietary supplement, sold nowadays as tablets, juices, powders to make drinks or as whole berries. It contains a moderate level of anti-oxidants, which are themselves the source of controversy within the scientific community as to whether or not they play an important role in anti aging and disease prevention. This is not to say there are not benefits from the berries, but again, like aloe vera, their acceptance by the mainstream medical community is still developing as more evidence emerges; at present, it is probably best described as not widespread. As well as these two naturally occurring ingredients, its then back to the ‘science in jar’ approach.

GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter produced in the body, tends to be associated with its relaxing effects on the nervous system. This is included to apparently relax the muscles and skin around the eyes. Reservatrol is also included, which is currently being studied for its effects on anti aging and cancer. It exerts eostrogenic effects and occurs naturally in foods, including peanuts, and some dark berries.

Elite Eye Serum claims these effects

Its interesting to note that much of the marketing for this eye cream features more or less the same copy, although in some senses this to be expected. There isn’t reference on the company website to the studies on the product or its ingredients other than a roundup of the results. Dark circles can result from a number of factors, such as poor sleep patterns, diet, stress and to some degree genetic factors. It may be worth tackling modifiable factors as part of healthy approach, as, sometimes skin can be telling us the body isn’t having all of its needs met. In the meantime, its also interesting to note that although there are anti aging eye products at the higher end full of newer compounds, there was still popular praise form real life consumers for those creams retailing for as little as £1.59 (£ around $2). And even then, as we’ve mentioned, theres at least one high profile cosmetics guru who says not to bother at all, just use good quality face products!

Disclaimer: As ever, any serious puffiness or other symptoms around the eyes, or other edema, in fact any new symptom should always be investigated by your doctor.

1. Daily Mirror. (2009). Anti-ageing eye creams: The Celebs Beauty Awards Winners. [online] Available at:

2. Dr. Dahten, A. & Dr. Gruenwald, J. (2009) Anti-Aging Peptides. Inside Cosmeceuticals [online]. Available at;

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A Critical Eye On Anti Aging Skincare

Filed under: Overview by admin

If you’re using anti aging skin care products, or are thinking of starting use them, read our non-biased information on products actually work here. Click on our categories the right for depth guides to some major trends in anti ageing skin care beauty industry, or read our sumaries below.

Anti ageing skin care is obviously a sizeable industry, with companies lining up to sell anti ageing creams, lotions, treatment devices, pills and supplements, not to mention cosmetic surgery. On the other side of the coin, some skin care experts claim no products can halt the appearance of fine lines and that some products sold actually damage the skin over time.

Women today are under more pressure than ever to stay younger looking longer, like the stars in the magazines – and lets not forget many magazines now routinely airbrush their photos.

Retinol Creams

Retinol (vitamin A) is reported to reduce wrinkle depth. The effect is due to a mild inflammatory response provoked when the vitamin is applied to skin. The skin responds by puffing up, which gives the wrinkles a shallower appearance. Whilst the creams are hugely popular, some controversy exists due to their mode of action (1).

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs or ‘fruit acids’)

These creams have skin effects documented by the American Food and Drug Administration agency (FDA). They note products containing AHAs are used in cosmetics as they cause exfoliation of surface skin. The effect depends on the concentration of AHAs in the products in combination with the effects of other ingredients (2). Again, some controversy exists (1).

‘Botox’ injections

One of the most famous ‘fixes’ for wrinkles and fine lines, this has been the subject of both controversy and praise. The generic name for the substance injected is Botulinum, and the most famous brand name within beauty treatment is “Botox Cosmetic” or “Vistabel” in the UK). It is injected into to muscles to stop the nerve impulse that tells the muscle to relax or contract, paralysing the muscle. The area around the injection is smoothed whilst the rest of the face remains the same. Botox has been declared as legal for use only by suitable qualified professionals in the USA and UK. In some places, its use is regulated by precautionary measures, which professionals must legally follow (3).


Another huge controversy currounds the use of parabens in cosmetics – chemicals which help prolong the shelf life of the products and keep them fresh and hygienic. Cancer research scientists have raised terrifying concerns that using parabens may be linked to certain cancers and they have been held responsible for rashes and allergic reactions (4). On the other hand, there are also cancer reserach organisation that refute any link to cancer and the FDA has not ruled parabens harmful yet (5). Read the real story of how the scientiifc ommunit, the beauty industry and consumers are reacting to parabens in countless everyday skin care and beauty products.

Natural skin care treatments


Roundup of benefits of comsetic acupuncture (dubbed the ‘acupuncture face lift’), facial massage, natural products and sun advice. Natural treatments usually claim to be safer, less damaging to skin than the ‘science in a jar’ brigade.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: NONE of the above advice can be a substitute for medical or professional skin care advice – please only consult qualified general medical and/ or dermatology physicians for serious skin complaints. The information here may reflect manufacturer’s claims and this site cannot be held responsible for such claims made.

RS Brown


  1. Mir, G. Anti Ageing and Sun Care. [online] Hertfordshire, UK: Mir. Available at:


2.       American Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Alpha Hydroxy Acids in Cosmetics. [online] Washington: Department of Health and Human Services. Available at:


3. Singer, N. (2009). FDA Orders Warning Label for Botox. [online] New York Times.  Available at:

4. Dabre, P. (2009). Underarm Antiperspirants/Deodorants And Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Research 2009, 11(Suppl 3):S5. Available at:


5. FDA. Parabens. FDA [online]. Available at:


Photo Credits

1. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Egahen

2. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/beer

3. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/petr0

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