Estrogenic activity of cosmetic components in reporter cell lines: parabens, UV screens, and musks

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2005 Feb 27;68(4):239-51. doi: 10.1080/15287390590895054.


In this work, the estrogenic effects of three classes of substances included in cosmetic formulations-parabens, ultraviolet (UV) screens, and musk fragrances-were studied. Their estrogenic activity was measured with the use of three reporter cell lines: HELN, HELN ERalpha, and HELN ERbeta. These three cell lines allowed for the measurement of estrogenic activity toward estrogen receptors alpha and beta (ERalpha and ERbeta, while taking nonspecific interactions into account. Eight of the 15 substances tested showed specific estrogenic activity with the following degree of potency on ERalpha butylparaben > propylparaben > homosalate = octyl-dimethyl-PABA = 4-methyl-benzylidenecamphor = octyl-methoxycinnamate > ethylparaben = galaxolide. Among these active substances, parabens activated ERalpha and ERbeta similarly, UV screens activated ERalpha moderately and had almost no effect on ERbeta, and fragrances did not activate ERbeta. Methylparaben, ethylparaben, musk moskene, celestolide, and cashmeran did not activate estrogenic responses up to 10(-5) M. Musk ketone and benzophenone-3 were not considered estrogenic at 10(-5) M.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cosmetics*
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / toxicity*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Humans
  • Parabens / toxicity*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology
  • Sunscreening Agents / toxicity*


  • Cosmetics
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Parabens
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • musk