Skin Moisturizer Study Confounds Researchers

According to new research, rats who recevied applications of everyday skin moisturizers were found to develop skin tumors and accelerated tumor growth. The current study, led by Allan H. Conney, PhD, director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research and professor in the school of pharmacy at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., appears online in the August 14 issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

The scientists first exposed the mice, twice weekly, to UVB radiation for a period of 20 weeks, then applied four popular skin moisturizers (without UVB exposure) for the next several months. The already UVB skin damaged mice received topical applications of 100 mg of Dermabase, Dermovan, (discontinued in 2006), Eucerin Original Moisturizing, or Vanicream once a day, 5 days a week, for 17 weeks.

Ultimately, the mice developed skin tumors with accelerated growth rates. As a control, mice that were given a topical blend of a custom-made cream specially developed by Johnson and Johnson at the researchers request, did not develop tumors. The total percentage of tumors developed with the application of Dermabase, Dermovan, Eucerin, and Vanicream was increased by 69%. 95% and 24% and 58%, respectively.

Confounding the study is the fact that the custom blend cream contained no mineral oil, previously implicated as tumor promoting, nor did it contain the common skin irritant sodium lauryl sulfate – nor do any of the four creams tested contain these ingredients.

The study doesn’t really give any conclusive results, and you might ask why were these particular creams singled out? It turns out that the researchers were getting ready to test Dermabase in skin trials of topical caffeine, which prevents skin cancer. Dr. Conney says, "We thought it would be prudent to test Dermabase by itself to see if it had tumor-promoting activity. We did not think it would. But lo and behold, to our surprise we got an increased rate of skin cancer."

It’s important to note that the skin products did not actually cause skin tumors that developed on the mice - it was skin damage from UVB exposure. However, the application of the moisturizers promoted the growth and acceleration of the cancers.

Experts say we shouldn’t stop using our moisturizers. Dermovan is still used as a base ingredient by compounding pharmacists, and has been around for 50 years; “without safety issues”, according to Healthpoint spokesperson, Mark Mitchell. According to Dr. Conney, "The multimillion-dollar question is, what about humans?" The answer is, we don't know.”


Personal Care Products are Toxic to Your Health