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Comment & Response
March 18, 2020

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Cosmetics—Reply

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Dermatol. Published online March 18, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.4661

We thank Drs Gore and Cohn for their interest in our article1 and thoughtful comments. We agree that ongoing research is needed; however, we would like to point out several issues. First, many parabens are, in fact, not banned in the European Union. The European Union has banned 5 longer-chain parabens not because of evidence that they are unsafe, but rather because “no information was submitted by industry for the safety evaluation [of these compounds].”2 All of the most commonly used parabens, including methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, along with many others, are considered safe and legal for use as preservatives in Europe.2 Although many researchers in the clean beauty movement have expressed concerns about the potential for endocrine disruption by parabens, studies in rats and yeast cells have shown parabens to be thousands to millions of times weaker than estradiol, an endogenous sex hormone.3 Given that women are exposed to much more potent natural estrogens, along with estrogens in oral contraceptive pills and even phytoestrogens in food, the extremely weak estrogenicity of parabens is unlikely to be meaningful. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review has done an extensive investigation of the scientific literature on paraben safety and has concluded that parabens are safe in personal care products. The US Food and Drug Administration has also concluded that parabens are safe when used in personal care products.4

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