Trusted for 23+ Years
Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert
Paraben Paranoia Or Health Concern?
Personal lubricants are absorbed by the mucus membranes of the vagina or rectum and then spread throughout the body through the bloodstream. This is why it is essential to be educated about what factors and ingredients make a lubricant more healthy. One of the questionable ingredients in lubricants has been parabens.
First, there were no concerns about parabens in lubricants, then there was a great deal, and now some call it paraben paranoia. So what is true? Is it a holistic marketing gimmick, or are there valid concerns?
Reasons Why Parabens Are Banned In Countries
Let's first explore the health concerns that have led to countries having banned parabens:
- Studies on parabens, especially methylparaben, demonstrate that they can lead to UV-induced damage of skin cells and disrupt cell growth rates.
- Propyl and butyl parabens have been linked to reducing sperm production of testosterone.
- Maternal exposure to isobutylparaben has shown evidence that use during pregnancy can lead to anxiety and behavioral changes in children.
- Parabens may weakly bind to estrogen receptors making them potential endocrine disruptors. Isopropyl and isobutyl parabens, in particular, have shown the most potent growth potency.
- Paraben studies also demonstrate that parabens can increase cell proliferation in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells.
- Other health concerns regarding parabens are skin rashes and heightened allergic reactions.
Where Have Parabens Been Banned?
Examples of where parabens have been banned are France, Denmark, and other parts of Europe.
- On 5-3-11, the French National Assembly banned phthalates, alkylphenols, and parabens in consumer and professional products.
- Denmark's environmental ministry announced on 12-20-10 that it is banning two types of parabens: propylparaben and butylparaben in lotions and other cosmetic products for children under three years of age.
- As of 6-26-12, the EU announced an introduction of a ban on the use of parabens in skin care products for children under six months old.
Are Paraben Studies Correct?
When you explore the world of studies, it is critical to understand that not all studies are created equal. Variables in studies can range significantly, with some focusing on short-term effects while others are long-term. Some studies are done on animals; others are on humans. Some studies may even be biased as there can be financial motivators. Some people point out that one study gave vast amounts of parabens to rats at levels humans would not consume. Thus, not all studies done on parabens are necessarily conclusive.
That being said, the health concerns are high enough that the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety banned them in all of Europe. In addition, The Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Cosmetics Committee has also banned them in cosmetics. Thus, if you do not have to use lubricants with parabens in them, especially when they are applied in sensitive mucus membrane areas of your body like the vagina, rectum, and mouth, it may be worth avoiding.
Parabens in Personal Lubricants Controversy
Because so many top-selling personal lubricants in the world contain parabens, many people are still being exposed to them. Brand names such as K-Y, Astroglide, Wet, I-D, System JO, Shunga, and even sex toy party company brands are just a few of the lubricants that have been known to contain parabens.
Why Are Parabens Used In Lubricants?
Parabens are used as a germicide and preservative as they are cheap, effective, and last a long time. Commonly used parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Because they can also be found in cosmetics, women are typically at a higher risk for having high levels of parabens found in their blood.
Some argue that parabens are not toxic because there have been limited studies proving the causality of cancer. Parabens are used in personal lubricants to kill bacteria and are known to have toxicity to cells, which is cause for concern. Research has shown that parabens were found in biopsies from breast tumors.
In 2004, a study in the UK detected five types of parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of the 20 women studied. This relatively small study does not prove that parabens cause breast cancer. However, it demonstrates a presence of parabens that were intact in the cancerous tumors. This means that the body's metabolism could not alter them and that parabens could penetrate the skin and remain in women's breasts.
It should be said that based on this small study regarding breast cancer, in the USA, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the National Cancer Institute (NCI), have said that there is no conclusive evidence that parabens cause cancer. However, they all concede that there is no conclusive evidence that it does not and that caution should be taken as more research is needed.
Which Lubricants Have Parabens?
We made things easy for our customers and simply do not carry lubricants with parabens so that no matter which one you choose, you will always have the peace of mind that it is paraben-free.
Many other factors make a lubricant healthy or unhealthy, so make sure to explore our Ultimate Lubricant Guide as well as our How To Properly Use Lubricants to become more educated and empowered regarding your sexual health and wellness.