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When searching the beauty aisle for shampoo, lotion or makeup, you are bound to see paraben-free options. So what are parabens, and should you be avoiding them?


Parabens are chemicals that inhibit mold and bacteria growth and are used as preservatives. Some common parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparabe. They’re not only used in cosmetics, but in food and medicine. The acid that makes up parabens actually occurs naturally in blackberries and raspberries.


  Should You Be Concerned About Parabens?


Although the FDA has not found any link between parabens and a negative impact on human health, there are studies looking at what effect parabens may have on the endocrine system and how your body regulates hormones. In 2004, a small study found trace amounts of parabens in breast cancer tumors, which triggered a lot of the public discussion you see today. That study did not show that parabens caused or contributed to breast cancer.


Both the FDA and American Cancer Society find no clear health risks from the low levels of parabens in cosmetic products. But if you want to play it safe until more research is available, you might consider paraben-free products. If you want to reduce your exposure, focus on products that stay on your skin, like lotions, deodorants and makeup as these can result in greater absorption of parabens.

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