Type of Ingredient: Preservative, from the family of Parabens.
Main Benefits: Used to extend the shelf life of cosmetics from creams, lotions, soaps, and even deodorants.
Who Should Use It: In general, anyone who prioritizes long shelf-life of products.
Ideal For These Concerns: Preserving beauty products and extending their shelf life, protecting the products from the growth of mold and bacteria
How Often Can You Use It: Isobutylparaben is found in many skincare and cosmetic products, and can be used depending on your beauty routine.
Works well with Other preservatives such as Propylparaben and ethylparaben
What is Isobutylparaben?
It is hard not to be aware of parabens and in this particular case isbutylparaben. They pop up in almost every skincare product and are even mentioned in cosmetic ads since they protect the products from bacteria and fungi and extend the shelf life of all your favorite beauty products.
The Benefits of isobutylparaben
One key benefit of isobutylparaben is extending the shelf life of beauty products and protecting them from any bacteria or mold that can cause infections. Robert Ashley, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles explains “Parabens are good preservatives because they have antibacterial properties as well as activity against yeast and molds. They also don't allow water to enter or break down the product they are preserving. Parabens are relatively inexpensive to make and are considered generally safe for food consumption by the Food and Drug Administration and European Union.” By limiting the growth of bacteria and fungi, preservatives like isobutylparaben help protect us from infection and other diseases. It’s true that our skin already acts as a barrier, but if we use contaminated creams on our skin, chances are, an inflammatory response can be evoked, and can further lead to skin damage.
Isobutylparaben Skincare Power Duo
Since isobutylparaben is simply a preservative, it does not pair well with just one ingredient, it is considered an essential ingredient in almost all beauty products to ensure long shelf life and protecting your skin from any inflammations. That being said, most often, combinations of (up to all five parabens) were used in at least 39% of beauty products on the market.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) finds that isobutylparaben is safe and gives it its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) rating. Nonetheless, many paraben-free products are being created for anyone with allergies or sensitivity to isobutylparaben and other paraben-based preservatives. What worries public health advocates is that some studies have shown parabens to disrupt hormone function and may be linked to cancer. The non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) states, “Our greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity… Parabens mimic estrogen by attaching to estrogen receptors on cells.” Research has shown that the perceived influx of estrogen beyond normal levels can in some cases trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumors. CSC cites a 2004 British study that detected traces of five parabens in the breast tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied. “This small study does not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, but it is important because it detected the presence of intact parabens—unaltered by the body’s metabolism—which is an indication of the chemical’s ability to penetrate the skin and remain in breast tissue.”
According to the group, a more recent study found higher levels of one paraben, n-propylparaben, in the axilla quadrant of the breast where the highest proportion of breast tumors is found. CSC reports that parabens have also been linked to reproductive, immunological, neurological and skin irritation problems. Another study shows that there is dermal toxicity in rats on a study of applying it to rats skin for 28 days. The histopathological examinations showed that weak or moderate skin damages were observed in female rats by macroscopic and microscopic evaluations due to the hormonal disruptions.
Although products with parabens are considered safe according to the FDA, health advocates worry about the cumulative exposure to the chemicals thereby overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems. Health advocates are pressuring the FDA to ban parabens in products sold in the U.S.—as the European Union did in 2012—but concerned consumers must take matters into their own hands for now by reading product labels and avoiding products with parabens. “Many natural and organic cosmetics manufacturers have found effective alternatives to parabens to prevent microbial growth in personal care products,” reports CSC. “Some companies have created preservative-free products that have shorter shelf lives than conventional products (six months to a year), but if used daily are likely to be used up before they expire.”
Final amended report on the safety assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Benzylparaben as used in cosmetic products. International Journal of toxicology. 2008;27 Suppl 4:1-82
Toxicology Letters, December 2013, pages 295-305
Skin Therapy Letter, July-August 2013, pages 5-7
Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, June 2008, pages 4631-4636
International Journal of Toxicology, April 2008, pages 1-82