San Francisco cosmetics executive Marissa Shipman is the founder and chief executive officer of theBalm Cosmetics. Marissa Shipman ensures that all of her products are made without parabens.
Developed in the 1950s, parabens were used in a wide variety of personal care products. Although parabens give skin care products a significantly extended shelf life, research has linked parabens with a number of disorders of the skin and endocrine system.
Parabens may function as a synthetic estrogen in the body. According to a 2004 study conducted by researchers at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, breast tumors in 19 of 20 women contained traces of parabens. Although the study could not establish a causal link, the correlation was compelling enough to lead many companies to drop parabens from their products.
The ability of parabens to mimic hormones can also lead to complications such as early puberty. In boys, this may lead to enlargement of the testicles and development of breasts.
A research group at the Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health found that rats exhibited decreased sperm production following a course of paraben injections. Although more research must be done on the interaction of parabens with the endocrine system, many experts advise consumers to avoid products with parabens until the picture becomes more clear.