Walk down any department or drugstore skin care aisle and you’ll find a plethora of anti-aging products, all promising to deliver proven results while boasting exotic ingredients rarer than the fountain of youth itself.
However, not all that glitters is gold. Before you slather on your favorite wrinkle cream, lotion, or potion, it pays to do your homeworking and read between the fine lines (pun intended).
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, a common, seemingly benign ingredient used in the majority of anti-aging and skincare products can actually worsen the condition of skin. That ingredient is methylparaben, a cheap, antimicrobial preservative.
Parabens acquired a bad rep years ago due their link to hormone disruption, which in turn may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. More recently however, they’ve been shown, ironically, to leave the skin of laboratory mice drier, paler, more irritated, and even more wrinkled.
The study revealed that high concentrations of methylparaben can reduce existing collagen levels — as well as future production — and can ultimately accelerate cell aging and death by increasing the levels of toxic molecules, explains Rachel Nazarian, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
The study’s results are not discounted by the fact it was done on mice, she adds. The skin of mice is so similar to that of humans that it’s often used in dermatology to determine how a similar dose of an ingredient would affect humans.
As this is one of the first official studies to suggest this specific type of paraben can actually age and worsen the condition of the skin — though a number of holistic health advocates have been saying this for years — additional research is still necessary, Nazarian said.
While creams and cosmetics don’t contain the concentrated doses used in the study, Nazarian feels it only makes sense to avoid preservatives that may decrease the production of collagen, which is instrumental in keeping skin firm, plump, tight, and youthful.
“First of all, we never test products on animals. Aside from parabens, we strive to minimize potentially irritating and pore clogging ingredients, which include sulfates and hydroquinone,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, Dermatologist/R&D Director, CosMedical Technologies. “Ingredients you should look for are antioxidants (of which Lipochroman™ is the strongest and vitamin C the most studied), essential oils, marine extracts, and peptides.”