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All About Paraben-Free (Preservative-Free) Skin Care Products and Cosmetics

In the Western world today, there are thousands of chemicals used in our food and water supplies, many of our medications, most of the industrial goods we use and even in our skin care products and cosmetics. These chemicals range from natural ingredients to more insidious and potentially damaging and toxic synthetic chemicals. One such class of chemicals that is beginning to make headlines regarding its absolute safety is a class of chemical compounds known as parabens.

Parabens come in a variety of forms. Those that are most widely seen in consumer products include methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, propyl paraben, and ethyl paraben. This class of chemicals is very popular for a multitude of reasons. They are extremely effective as a preservative and can be used in products such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, creams, cosmetics and other skin care products. Parabens are a low cost method to preserve these highly volatile products and allow for these items to be stored for relatively long periods of time without spoiling. Finally, their long history of use accompanied by studies that show them to be, for the most part, non toxic has increased the usage of parabens in most products requiring a preservative.

On the flip side of the coin, new research and health advocacy groups have started a rally cry for paraben-free and preservative-free skin care products and cosmetics. Several studies in recent past have concluded that in some cases detectable levels of parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors. The conclusion that has been drawn is that parabens from deodorants and other skin care products leach into the skin through repeated use over many years to eventually reach a threshold level. Eventually this level becomes one of the triggering agents in the development of cancer.

Supporting this theory is the fact that several components of the paraben chemicals have been shown to act similarly to human produced estrogen molecules. Some forms of breast cancer are estrogen induced. The question that is being asked then is if these estrogen-like substances from parabens could, in fact, be stimulating cancers to form.

Only with further research will these arguments bring forth a conclusion on this topic.
However, in the meantime, there are certain things that individuals who are concerned with these potential health problems can do. The most obvious is avoiding parabens.

To avoid parabens in skin care products and cosmetics, learn to read the labeling on each product. Look for the word -paraben. If the product contains this chemical look for another product that is paraben-free.

Several excellent lines of paraben-free products exist. These include La Roche-Posay, Pharmaceutical Specialties, Inc. (PSI), Jane Iredale Products, and Skyn Iceland.