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Are Parabens Safe?

Should You Check Cosmetic Labels For Parabens?

If you're an obsessive a conscious label reader when it comes to the foods you put in your body, then you're most likely also conscientious about what you put on the outside. Makeup, lotions, deodorants, hair products, sunscreens — when looking at the list of ingredients on these products, most seem like a chemical cocktail. One you might have heard should be avoided is parabens.

These inexpensive and widely used chemicals are added to products as preservatives to increase their shelf life and combat bacterial growth and mold. Since different parabens prevent the growth of different organisms, many derivatives of parabens are used to fully protect consumers, including ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, benzylparaben, and butylparaben.

The thing is, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act doesn't authorize the FDA to approve ingredients in cosmetics, so companies have free range to use whatever they want. It is, however, against the law to use ingredients that are proven to be poisonous or to cause harm to people. So that brings up the question: are parabens proven to be harmful?

In the 1990s, parabens were found to mimic the female hormone estrogen, although they're 1,000 to one million times weaker than naturally occurring estrogen. One cause of breast cancer as well as issues with reproduction is disruption of estrogen, and many speculate that estrogen-mimicking compounds like parabens may be to blame. In 2004, British cancer researcher Philippa Darbre, Ph.D., found parabens present in malignant breast tumors. And a recent study published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Applied Technology discovered that 99 percent of healthy breast tissue samples contained at least one paraben, and 60 percent contained five or more.

Keep reading to find out what the FDA thinks about the safety of parabens.

The FDA believes at this time that there's no reason for consumers to avoid parabens, and studies have yet to definitively link breast cancer to paraben exposure. However, paraben exposure could be one cause of breast cancer in women, and if parabens can be stored in the body, then they could potentially pose other health risks down the line.

The bottom line is that research hasn't proven parabens to be 100 percent harmful, but with a few studies touching upon it, it pays to err on the side of caution and be mindful about the products you and your loved ones are using. There are tons of companies that offer products that are paraben-free, and since many of you will be purchasing body lotion, defrizzing hair products, and sunscreen this Summer, you probably want to check out the list below and a larger list of paraben-free cosmetic companies here:

  • Alba Botanica
  • Aubrey Organics
  • Aveda
  • Badger
  • Burt's Bees
  • California Baby
  • Dr. Bronner's
  • Dr. Hauschka
  • Jason
  • Kiss My Face
  • Mineral Fusion
  • Nature's Gate
  • Pangea Organics
  • Terressentials
  • The Honest Co.
  • St. Ives
  • Tom's of Maine
  • Waleda
Source: Thinkstock
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