Is Your Skincare Secretly Aging You? (Methylparaben)

Parabens … the word itself evokes controversy, and for multiple reasons. Parabens have been implicated in the development of cancer (new data suggest that contrary to previous studies, clinically relevant concentrations of parabens can too, stimulate the growth of cancer when combined with natural growth hormones in breast tissues (1)), skin allergies (a small but real occurrence, ranging from 0-4.2% in populations (2)), and skin aging. The focus of this article will deal with skin aging and involves methylparaben in particular.

Whether you are an anti-aging aficionado who values sunscreens, anti-aging serums, and masks; a make-up enthusiast;  use skincare for problematic skin (dry skin, acne, etc.), or simply prefer to keep it basic with just a cleanser and sunscreen, it is highly likely that you have been unknowingly unexposed to methylparaben through one or multiple skincare products (I know I have!).

  • What methylparaben is

Skincare products, regardless of whether they are serums, creams, lotions, or thick masks, need preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and fungi that is bound to occur in all formulations. Parabens are ubiquitous in skincare because they are highly effective against these disease-causing microbes and are inexpensive. The most common paraben found among cosmetics is methylparaben, a methyl ester of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. At a molecular weight of 152 g/mol, it can easily travel across all the layers of the skin, from the stratum corneum to the dermis. It is used in concentrations anywhere from 0.1-0.4% (15), but these levels are not as insignificant as they appear.

So, what are the cosmetic consequences of methylparaben?

  • It significantly increases UV damage to skin (sunscreen is NOT a cure)

In an in vitro study, tiny concentrations of methylparaben (.003%) and low-dose UVB light —- which both did not elicit strong negative effects on human skin cells when administered separately -— reacted synergistically  and produced dramatic deleterious effects on skin cells. Such effects included increases in oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, and inflammatory markers, all of which contribute to UVB-induced damage of skin. (8)

In another in vitro study, it was found that a particular photoproduct derived from the interaction of methylparaben and UV light — 3-hydroxy methyl paraben — spawned an active metabolite in dermal tissue that led to oxidative DNA damage. (9) In addition to accelerated aging of the skin, on a more serious note, this can lead to carcinogenesis. This might partly explain the occasional findings of sunscreen use being associated with a greater risk for malignant melanoma (apart from the obvious explanations: more overall sun exposure, low SPF formulas used, and inadequate amounts used).

The extrapolation to human skin in real-life conditions from these findings has been criticized since the aforementioned studies were done in vitro and were analyzed in aqueous solutions, which probably elevated the amount of UV damage. Still, the substantial increase in oxidative stress, inflammation, and cell death is not a good sign and even if the degree of damage is inhibited somewhat on dry human skin, the amount of increased damage is likely to still be significant. Moreover, it was recently found that a sizable increase in phototoxicity was corroborated in an in vivo study with hairless mice. In this study, practical concentrations of methylparaben and related substances (e.g., propylparaben) in a gel-cream formulation topically applied to the bare backs of the animals considerably increased the amount of damage in  UV-exposed skin when compared to the same amount of irradiation without the paraben-containing formulation. The UV dosage here was not by any means excessive; in fact, it merely simulated natural UV conditions on a summer day.

Interestingly, this study also analyzed the effects on skin when a sunscreen was included in the paraben formulation. In this short-term study, the changes of the skin did not differ significantly from the control group (no irradiation and no paraben exposure), although the authors noted that the phototoxic ingredients (parabens) in the sunscreen’s formulation was likely still producing oxidative stress — albeit to a lesser extent — which probably demanded antioxidant defenses from the skin cells, which cannot be substituted for long-term protection, as they are finite. (10) Since the UV exposure was extremely short-term (irradiation occurred for 15 minutes once a day for 5 consecutive days (11) ),  it was not sufficient to recognize just how much extra damage was occurring in the skin that was exposed to parabens and simultaneously protected with sunscreen. Moreover, the study did not include a paraben-free sunscreen group, so the increase in skin damage that would have likely occurred in the sunscreen+parabens group in comparison to the paraben-free sunscreen group could not be assessed.

What is definitely known is that no sunscreen protects the skin completely from the sun and that parabens potentiate UV damage in vivo. With this information at hand, it is reasonable to assume that by using a paraben-containing sunscreen versus a paraben-free sunscreen, more negative skin changes will accrue over time than if a sunscreen without parabens was used. How noticeable this extra damage would be is currently unknown, however.  Although methylparaben is the paraben being discussed, it is worth noting that propylparaben displayed the most phototoxic response in the aforementioned study (10), and this substance is often used together with methylparaben in many skincare products.

  • It decreases collagen formation, regardless of UV exposure

Even if wearing sunscreen could entirely alleviate the enhancement of UV-induced skin damage, there is a whole other problem that occurs independently of UV exposure that will not be accounted for, and that is methylparaben-mediated decreases in collagen. When sun exposure is totally factored out of the equation, long-term exposure of minuscule amounts of methylparaben to normal neonatal human epidermal keratinocytes decreased the expression of type IV collagen. Methylparaben furthermore decreased enzyme activity responsible for the production of hyaluronic acid (5) —another essential skin component that promotes cell proliferation and protects against skin atrophy, while also preserving moisture,  plumpness, and indirectly, improving elasticity and the appearance of wrinkles (12)). In this very study, it was also found that methylparaben affected the proliferation rate and cell morphology, indicating that long-term exposure may additionally lead to an abnormally disorganized epidermis. (5) 

These results were supported and expanded upon in a very recent study with human dermal fibroblasts (dermal skin cells). Here, methylparaben was found, in small concentrations, to dose-dependently decrease collagen biosynthesis. Multiple collagen types (type I, III, IV) was shown to be decreased in their expression at the mRNA level. Besides inhibiting collagen synthesis, methylparaben also stimulated collagen-digesting enzymes, which further contributed to the markedly decreased collagen content observed in the medium. Methylparaben predictably interfered with cell proliferation, cell viability, and also inhibited cell survival (13). The negative effect on cell viability was not observed in the previous study, but that is probably because concentrations in this study were 10-fold higher, yet still normal in terms of the amounts found in cosmetics.

The adverse influences of methylparaben on collagen, hyaluronic acid, and viability of the skin cells themselves have not yet been studied in vivo, but these preliminary results should be highly disconcerting to anyone interested in skin health.

  • Accumulation … adding insult to injury

Methylparaben exerts the significant aforementioned effects with relatively low concentrations, and these ravaging effects worsen with increasing concentrations. Methylparaben concentrations were thought to be swiftly metabolized by skin enzymes called esterases, but it turns out that these enzymes break down methylparaben at a slower rate than what was thought, causing the agent to accumulate in skin layers, especially if products containing methylparaben are used more than once within a 36 hour period (4)***, which is very typical for cosmetic products such as sunscreens, moisturizers, lip color, and powders.

(***Interestingly, other authors have used this same study to claim that methylparaben does not have cumulative effects after 36 hours, but this is only based on one of the experiments, which had to do with just a single dose of paraben exposure. In the other experiment in which methylparaben exposure was repeated after every 12 hours — which, again, is a realistic frequency of exposure given how often a product is used and/or given that a number of products containing methylparaben can easily be used throughout a day  — significant cumulative effects most certainly did occur, and showed  practically linear accumulation after 12 hours, which was considerably increased by 36 hours.)

When a small cosmetically-relevant concentration (0.15% of the formulation) of methylparaben was applied on the forearm twice a day, the amount of methylparaben in the stratum corneum (SC) doubled by one week from the amount detected 12 hours after the first application. By one month, the concentration in the SC increased 12-fold from the initial recording! After complete cessation of use, the concentration in the SC decreased dramatically by 48 hours, although levels were still a little higher than the baseline readings. (5) These findings are startling when you consider that methylparaben is absorbed much more efficiently on the face. (13)

Worse, many methylparaben-containing product also consist of other ingredients that can directly and indirectly lead to a greater accumulation in skin, alcohol being a prime example. Alcohol has shown to slow down the ability of esterases to break down methylparaben in vitro, and additionally, it enhanced dermal absorption of the fiendish paraben in guinea skin, also in vitro. (6,7) Alcohol is a known penetration enhancer of topically-applied substances in human skin, so it is not a stretch to assume that by using products containing methylparaben and alcohols, its accumulation in the skin would rise due to the increasing of its penetration and the reduced effectiveness of its breakdown.

 

  • Skincare containing methylparaben

Methylparaben is found within the full variety of skincare products: cleansers, moisturizers, anti-aging serums/lotions/serums, sunscreen products, self-tanners, acne creams, primer, foundation, bronzers, make-up remover, chapstick, lipstick, eyeliner, masks, and also in a preservative product that many who use DIY skincare might be familiar with, Germaben II.

List of brands that contain methylparaben:

(Caveat: These are simply the brands that I’ve come across that contain methylparaben in one or more of their products. There are countless other brands that include the paraben in their formulas, and so it is strongly recommended to check the labels of ALL brands of cosmetics. In the same token, one should not feel the need to exclude an entire brand that is listed below, as most of their other products might not have methylparaben in their formula. It is important to scrutinize each individual product’s label  carefully, no matter what the brand may be.)

L’Oréal

Jergens

Cerave

Neutrogena

Olay

Covergirl

Maybelline

Eucerin

La Roche-Posay

Banana Boat

Cetaphil

Clean & Clear

Pond’s

Obagi

Gold Bond

Skin Actives

  • Alternatives to methylparaben (and parabens in general)

No matter what, the need to include preservatives in cosmetic formulations to protect against microbial growth of germs is essential. Fortunately, there are valid alternatives to look for. Other paraben-free (and formaldehyde-free!) preservatives that are effective and widely-used are phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, Neolone, OptiphenPlus, Hydantoin, Glycacil, Natrulon and benzethonium chloride. (14)

 

References

  1. Goodman B. FAQ: Parabens and Breast Cancer [Internet]. WebMD. WebMD; 2015 [cited 2018May20]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20151027/parabens-breast-cancer#1
  2. Garner N, Siol A, Eilks I. Parabens as preservatives in personal care products. Chemistry in Action. 2014;103:36-43.
  3. Methylparaben [Internet]. EWG. [cited 2018May20]. Available from: https://www.ewg.org/
  4. El Hussein S, Muret P, Berard M, Makki S, Humbert P. Assessment of principal parabens used in cosmetics after their passage through human epidermis–dermis layers (ex‐vivo study). Experimental dermatology. 2007 Oct 1;16(10):830-6.
  5. Ishiwatari S, Suzuki T, Hitomi T, Yoshino T, Matsukuma S, Tsuji T. Effects of methyl paraben on skin keratinocytes. Journal of applied toxicology. 2007 Jan 1;27(1):1-9.
  6. Lakeram M, Paine AJ, Lockley DJ, Sanders DJ, Pendlington R, Forbes B. Transesterification of p-hydroxybenzoate esters (parabens) by human intestinal (Caco-2) cells. Xenobiotica. 2006 Jan 1;36(9):739-49.
  7. Kitagawa S, Li H, Sato S. Skin permeation of parabens in excised guinea pig dorsal skin, its modification by penetration enhancers and their relationship with n-octanol/water partition coefficients. Chemical and pharmaceutical bulletin. 1997 Aug 15;45(8):1354-7.
  8. Handa O, Kokura S, Adachi S, Takagi T, Naito Y, Tanigawa T, Yoshida N, Yoshikawa T. Methylparaben potentiates UV-induced damage of skin keratinocytes. Toxicology. 2006 Oct 3;227(1-2):62-72.
  9. Okamoto Y, Hayashi T, Matsunami S, Ueda K, Kojima N. Combined activation of methyl paraben by light irradiation and esterase metabolism toward oxidative DNA damage. Chemical research in toxicology. 2008 Jul 26;21(8):1594-9.
  10. Hossy BH, da Costa Leitão AA, dos Santos EP, Matsuda M, Rezende LB, Rurr JS, Pinto AV, Ramos-e-Silva M, de Pádula M, de Oliveira Miguel NC. Phototoxic assessment of a sunscreen formulation and its excipients: An in vivo and in vitro study. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. 2017 Aug 1;173:545-50.
  11. Hossy BH, da Costa Leitao AA, Luz FB, Dos Santos EP, Allodi S, de Pádula M, de Oliveira Miguel NC. Effects of a sunscreen formulation on albino hairless mice: a morphological approach. Archives of dermatological research. 2013 Aug 1;305(6):535-44.
  12. Göllner I, Voss W, von Hehn U, Kammerer S. Ingestion of an Oral Hyaluronan Solution Improves Skin Hydration, Wrinkle Reduction, Elasticity, and Skin Roughness: Results of a Clinical Study. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine. 2017 Oct;22(4):816-23.
  13. Majewska N, Zaręba I, Surażyński A, Galicka A. Methylparaben‐induced decrease in collagen production and viability of cultured human dermal fibroblasts. Journal of Applied Toxicology. 2017 Sep 1;37(9):1117-24.
  14. Formaldehyde- paraben free preservatives [Internet]. Formaldehyde & Paraben Free Preservatives – Preservativesindia. [cited 2018Jun1]. Available from: http://preservativesindia.com/formaldehyde-paraben-free-preservatives.htm
  15. Preservative directory. [Internet]. HighBeam Research – Newspaper archives and journal articles. The Washington Post; [cited 2018Jun1]. Available from: https://www.highbeam.com/

 

 

 

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A New Kind of Tanning Product

Gone are the days when sun-seekers need to spend countless hours in the scorching sunlight or in tanning beds to achieve the coveted golden glow. Nowadays, even those with type I skin can acquire a darker skin tone by the use of self-tanners. Of course, the “glow” acquired by these self-tanners is faux and not protective against UV light. It also can turn into a weekly messy hassle can that sometimes result in uneven, orange-looking skin.

If you read my previous article on self-tanners: Do Self-Tanners Age Skin? , you would also know that the DHA and erythrulose in self-tanners significantly exacerbate the damaging effects of UV light. Unless you plan to live as a vampire or spend extra money on high antioxidant-containing self-tanners and judiciously apply sunscreen daily (and even then some UV light will reach skin), self-tanners will lead to accelerated skin aging.

Fortunately, it was recently discovered that a combination of acetyl tyrosine and Chasteberry extract can be used to increase melanin content in the skin. (1) Unlike temporarily staining the skin with an orange-hued dye, which conventional self-tanners do, the tan achieved is a truly natural sunless tan. It is worth stating that the tanning effects from acetyl tyrosine and Chasteberry extract alone were barely perceptible on human skin after 1 month of use (2x per day), but more visible tanning effects can be seen around the 6-8 week mark. From there, with continued daily use, the skin can be expected to gradually continue to darken and darken.

Enter Melitane, chemically known as acetyl hexapeptide-1, a biomimetic peptide of our natural hormone α-MSH (α-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone). Applied topically, this peptide can also help produce a sunless natural tan by mimicking the biological tanning response. If you have used any kind of tanning accelerator or any type of suncare products, you may have seen Melitane or acetyl-hexapeptide-1 listed among the ingredients. The problems are that it may be added at less than ideal concentrations; it is rarely combined with acetyl tyrosine and chasteberry extract; and worst of all, it is almost always in a product containing preservatives that, along the lines of DHA and erythrulose, boosts free radicals produced by UV light (e.g., methylparaben (2)).

With the inspiration from discontented pale friends, I have developed a completely natural (melanin-derived) self-tanning product combining acetyl hexapeptide-1, acetyl tyrosine, and chasteberry with a paraben-free (and formaldehyde-free) preservative. With that said, this product won’t be ideal for someone looking to go from ivory to a deep bronze in a few weeks. The days when we can transform porcelain skin to Sub-Saharan skin without the need for any UV exposure might be as much as 10 years into the future, if certain methods can be proven safe (Lookin’ at you, SIK-inhibitors … (3)).

Until then, we can gradually darken the skin-tone independent of UV exposure. For purchase, see my product Sunless Tanner + Tanning Accelerator (with Melitane!) on:

Etsy

and

Ebay

*Although I do not recommend tanning, this product may also be used in conjunction with UV exposure to increase the tanning response.

References:

  1. Schmid D, Belser E, Zulli F. Self-tanning based on stimulation of melanin biosynthesis. Cosmetics and toiletries. 2007;122(7):55-62.
  2. Handa O, Kokura S, Adachi S, et al. Methylparaben potentiates UV-induced damage of skin keratinocytes. Toxicology. 2006 Oct 3;227(1):62-72.
  3. Mujahid N, Liang Y, Murakami R, et al. A UV-Independent Topical Small-Molecule Approach for Melanin Production in Human Skin. Cell Reports. 2017 Jun 13;19(11):2177-84.

Osteoporosis: Beyond Diet and Lifestyle

In the first volume of Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide, I extensively discussed multiple dietary and lifestyle factors that impact the disease and how to modify these factors accordingly to significantly help prevent or reverse the condition. For most, this would be sufficient, but for many others, this will not be enough.

The body must be viewed as an interconnected unit. In other words, treating a bone disease does not stop at supporting the bones in isolation. Several other organs such as, but not limited to, the thyroid gland,  parathyroid glands, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract majorly impact the state of the skeleton. Dysfunction in any of the aforementioned organs, which can even be asymptomatic, needs to be carefully managed in order to support bone health.

An excerpt from the second volume, titled Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide: The Organ Function:

“As the second volume of Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide, this book focuses on organ function as it relates to bone health. If not already done so, it is imperative that the first volume, titled “Lifestyle and Nutrition”, is thoroughly read as necessary diet and lifestyle practices are still fundamental to achieving optimal bone health irrespective of any other secondary issue. In fact, in such instances, it will be even more important to maximize the bone-promoting benefits from diet and a healthy lifestyle.

A malfunctioning of even one or multiple major organ systems will in turn negatively affect bone metabolism, regardless of adequate dietary and lifestyle support, and the effects can be quite dramatic. For example, if the intestinal permeability barrier of the small intestine is compromised, nutrient absorption is obstructed and severe osteoporosis will result. Organ dysfunction is not always obvious; often, it can be asymptomatic, and therefore it is advised that even those who think they are completely healthy familiarize themselves with the contents of this book in the event that they may be affected. It will always be pertinent to pay attention to your own symptoms and get frequent blood tests and “check-ups” to look for anything abnormal. Worsening bone density results and continuous fractures after making multiple “pro-bone” lifestyle adjustments will be another suggestive sign that organ dysfunction is a possibility.

Treating organ dysfunction and/or adding specialized management regimes beyond that of a good diet and supportive lifestyle is needed to combat secondary osteoporosis resulting from impaired organ function. Some organ systems with a prominent role in skeletal health discussed here are the gut (small intestine), parathyroid glands, the thyroid, the kidneys, and the liver, to name a few.”

The new book is available on Amazon here.

Anti-Aging Supplements for Skin (“Internal Skincare”) Part II

Since the interest in improving skin appearance and preserving youth is increasing exponentially, and in line with the creation of new cosmetic treatments and topical formulations, it is as good a time as ever to highlight the internal means by which this can be achieved.Internal agents are woefully underwritten in skincare when in fact, unlike nearly all of topical agents, these agents are capable of acting on skin through the dermis after they are digested and taken into the bloodstream. Topical skin creams and such do not Continue reading

Before Money, Invest in your Bones

What is money without health? At present, even an unlimited supply of money cannot cure osteoporosis as there is no single and instant cure for the condition. Then, what good is wealth when you cannot live life to the fullest because you’re too fragile and constantly in pain? Then there is the chance that your life may be tragically cut short due to complications following fractures. Sure, there can be a cure in the future, but osteoporosis is a complex condition, and it also doesn’t just describe one condition. Osteoporosis may occur Continue reading

What are the Best Sunscreens to Protect Against Skin Aging?

First and foremost, forget about SPF when it comes to UV-induced skin aging. SPF, or sun protection factor, is simply a measure of how well a sunscreen can protect against UVB-induced sunburn. (1) While UVB does play a role in skin damage, it is not what is primarily responsible for the aging of skin. In other words, high SPF is not synonymous with high protection from photodamage. If a sunscreen prevents a sunburn yet allows for a “nice tan” (like many high SPF sunscreens), then said sunscreen is still allowing Continue reading

Common Myths about Osteoporosis

*As the first volume of the Osteoporosis book series (Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide Volume I: Lifestyle and Nutrition) is nearing release, I thought it might be appropriate to provide a free sample chapter: Chapter 1 – “Common Myths about Osteoporosis”.

**Hopefully, readers see that this condition is far from exclusive to old women, and more over, that prevention in both males and females should begin in youth. In the series, it will become evident that prevention and care of osteoporosis must be done holistically and below the surface, this book is also a prevention tool against Continue reading