Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used as artificial preservatives in cosmetic and body care products since the 1920s.
They are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetic products, they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.
Their names are a mouthful: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. You’ll find them in products such as shampoos, mascara, foundations and body lotions.
However, over the past few years, a debate has been building among scientists, product safety regulators and cosmetic manufacturers about just how harmful these chemicals are for your health.
Studies have shown that some parabens can mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body’s cells, and while estrogenic activity is associated with certain forms of breast cancer, parabens have been found present in breast tumors.
So if you are cautious, its best to look for products labelled ‘Paraben Free’ and read ingredient lists on labels to avoid products with parabens. Many natural and organic cosmetics manufacturers have found effective alternatives to parabens to prevent microbial growth in personal care products.