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Avon Products, Inc. and Consumer Safety: Parabens

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For 125 years, Avon has led the way in beauty product research and development, with an impressive track record for safety – the longest in the industry. No ingredient is added to an Avon product unless it is safe.

Parabens are a family of compounds which help prevent fungal and bacterial contamination that have been used safely since the 1920s in a wide variety of consumer products, including food, drugs, cosmetics and personal care products. Because of their long established history of safe use, parabens are used by the vast majority of global cosmetics companies as an important health and safety precaution. Some attributes that make parabens especially safe include the fact that they are poorly absorbed through the skin, have low toxicity and are excreted quickly.

A few studies have suggested that parabens may have very weak "estrogenic" activity. Separately, some naturally-occurring estrogens, such as estradiol, are known to increase the growth of tumors. While it is understandable how people might interpret this as a link between parabens and cancer, there is no widely-accepted scientific evidence to support this. Numerous studies have shown that parabens do not act like estrogen in the body. Parabens are 10,000 to 100,000 times less active than estrogens produced in the human body. By comparison, plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) found in dozens of foods such as broccoli, grapes, oats, coffee and potatoes are 1,000 to 10,000 times more active than the parabens in cosmetics.

The main parabens used as preservatives in cosmetics come in two forms: "short chain" (methyl-and ethyl paraben) and "long chain" (propyl- and butyl paraben). There is also some limited use of isobutyl- and isopropyl parabens, also known as "branched chain parabens".

Government scientists and other experts have concluded that scientific evidence unequivocally supports the safety of parabens. The organizations that have investigated the safety of parabens include the World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Anvisa in Brazil, and the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), a committee of experts that advises the European Commission. Each of these organizations has concluded that parabens can be used safely and are important ingredients in preventing fungal and bacterial contamination of cosmetics.

Avon will not compromise our 125-year history of safety. We will continue to take appropriate action to protect the safety of our consumers and the quality of our products, as well as offer consumer choice. Consistent with our unwavering commitment to safety but in recognition of the fact that some consumers have a preference for products without parabens, Avon has taken several steps:

  • Starting in 2002, Avon began eliminating parabens from some of our products where there are safe alternatives. Today, these paraben-free products include lip products; women's body care; antiperspirants and deodorants; and children's products.
  • Beginning in 2006, Avon made the decision to develop new products without using isobutyl and isopropyl parabens. In 2010, Avon made the decision to no longer use propyl and butyl parabens in new product development.

Consumers can continue to use Avon products with confidence, and can make their own choices regarding parabens (or any other ingredients) by reading the label of Avon products. Products containing parabens are clearly labeled in the ingredient listing, which is strictly guided by law.

Product ingredient information can be found at http://cosmeticsinfo.org/ For inquiries about the safety of Avon products, please contact avoncr@avon.com