Parabens, Retinly Palmitate, Hydroquinone... Oh my! Today I'll tell you the real deal about these allegedly dangerous ingredients. And stay tuned until the end of this episode for the question of the day; if you answer it correctly, you'll have a chance to win a free skincare product!
There are ingredients in many products, not just skincare products, which under specific circumstances are dangerous. That I get. But what I don’t understand is that THEN, by extrapolation, they are unjustifiably alleged to be dangerous in ALL circumstances, regardless of context. This does an incredible injustice to the ingredients, the products they are in, and more importantly, to you.
Examples of such allegedly dangerous ingredients in skincare products are retinyl palmitate, hydroquinone and parabens, but the list goes on and on. Lets look at a few.
Retinyl palmitate, a popular ingredient in sunscreens, was fed to rodents at enormously high doses out of proportion to any possible human consumption or absorption. The rats developed tumors and therefore some people say retinyl palmitate is unsafe in humans despite there being no evidence that you can extrapolate the occurrence of tumors in rats to humans EVEN IF humans could absorb the same impossibly high doses of retinyl palmitate given to the rats. Moreover, it also turns out that the strain of rats used had an usually high incidence of the same tumors even without retinyl palmitate use.
Next are parabens. They’re chemicals used as preservatives in skincare and other products to prevent bacterial growth and contamination. They were found in human breast cancer tissue in a very small study of 20 subjects. Because parabens are known to have some very weak estrogenic effects, their presence in the tumors was noteworthy… but certainly doesn’t prove that parabens caused the tumors. The amount of parabens in the samples on average was 55 nanograms… by the way, one nanogram is 1 billionth of a gram and less than 1 ten billionth of an ounce. What was left out here is that the control specimens with no tumor tissue on average had 34 nanograms, two thirds of the level in the tumors.
Onto hydroquinone… which has been the gold standard in skin lightening topical bleaches for decades. It is known to cause a disease in humans called ochronosis, in which the skin turns a bluish gray color… BUT only when enormous doses are used on large areas of the skin for years, at 10 to 20% concentrations ,which are not even available in the United States. But using it at 2% in small areas, like on age spots on your face, for a month, doesn’t cause ochronosis, which is a disease I have never seen in over 30 years of practice while treating more than 10,000 patient visits per year and prescribing hydroquinone frequently when appropriate.
With all of these chemicals, and many others, the movement to not allow them in products is equivalent to throwing out the baby with the bath water… despite the bath water being pretty clean. Ultimately, of course though, it comes down to you, and your comfort level, but don’t avoid ingredients because you’ve heard they might be harmful. Only avoid ingredients that you know are harmful, based on real facts, because otherwise you might miss out on some really effective skincare products.
Now for today's skincare trivia! Answer today's question correctly and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a free skincare product. Submit your answer at DermTV Dot Com Slash Trivia, within three days of this episode's airing. Today's question is:
In the study on parabens, what were the names of the rats in the experiment?
The real question is, in several episodes I've mentioned that peptide-based products are a new alternative to which of the three ingredients I discussed today?
And don't forget. You can find the answer to all questions in past DermTV episodes.