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When it comes to choosing cosmetics, it's important to read the ingredients label, as some chemicals can have adverse side effects for some people. Many cosmetics, such as makeup and lotions, contain parabens as preservatives. Parabens mimic estrogen, which has been linked to breast cancer tumors. Although the FDA's studies didn't show parabens as harmful or as causing cancer, you can play it safe by choosing paraben-free cosmetics.
Parabens may show up on a cosmetic's ingredients list in any of several ways. Parabens, which are esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid, are often referred to as propylparaben, methylparaben and butylparaben. You may find more than one paraben listed, as the combination increases preservative activity in the cosmetic and protects against microbial growth.
Parabens in Cosmetics
If you search your bathroom, you'll most likely find many health and beauty products containing parabens in your closets and cabinets. Parabens are used in deodorants, makeup such as foundation and mascara, moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners, and shave creams, among other cosmetics.
Paraben and Estrogen
The FDA states that a study conducted by the Journal of Applied Toxicology found parabens to contain weak estrogenlike properties, which may be a concern as estrogen is associated with breast cancer. They study also found paraben in breast tumors. Although parabens are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, the FDA says that they have been shown to have less estrogenic activity than a body's natural estrogen.
Choosing Paraben-Free Cosmetics
If you're concerned about parabens' harmful effect on your body and don't want the chemical absorbed through your skin, be proactive and choose paraben-free cosmetics. Shop health food stores, which may have a wider selection of the products than traditional retailers. When looking for the cosmetics, note that the labels "organic" and "natural" don't necessarily mean "paraben-free." Choose products that are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, which are guaranteed to be free of paraben.