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For those of you not familiar with parabens, they‘re preservatives which help prevent the spread of fungus and bacteria. Cosmetics companies have been including parabens in products such as makeup, shaving gels, shampoos, moisturizers and dozens of other products for many years. Parabens are also included in various types of foods to ensure their safety for consumption.

Recently, the use of parabens as a preservative has attracted attention and criticism. One study reported that parabens were found in samples of breast tumours. And other studies have found them to exhibit estrogenic effects in animals. While the research is still being disputed, many individuals worry about parabens causing adverse health effects. Should you seek out products without parabens? Let's look at the data to help you decide.

Parabens Maintain the Integrity of Skin Care Products

Parabens are effective for inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungus. Left unchecked, the spread of these microorganisms could prove harmful to your health. And while there is an argument for taking precautions when using any product that contains preservatives, it’s essential that we appreciate the benefits of parabens along with their potential risks. In addition to controlling the spread of bacteria, mold and fungus, parabens are very stable and highly efficacious. Counter that with the negative impact of using products that are contaminated with bacteria.

The Decision is Yours

But what about the possible downside? Whether to use or avoid products with parabens is an informed decision we each have to make by weighing the risks against benefits. Is the skin care product that you are using delivering benefits more important than the potential risks associated with it?

In the case of a skincare product like sunscreen, consider that you are protecting your skin against sunburns, photo aging as well as some types of skin cancers. Many of us would agree that the benefits of sunscreen far outweigh the potential risks associated with parabens, especially if we are using it for the most part just on our faces and décolleté. Because of potential safety issues, many cosmetics companies are opting for alternative preservative systems such as phenoxyethanol or grapefruit seed extract.  

Alternative preservative systems are still new and research suggests that they work well. What we don't know is if there are longer term side effects associated with their use. Though they seem to be well tolerated, time will tell if they too might have implications regarding health.  

If you're concerned about parabens, read labels. Common parabens include butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. If you're a sunscreen user (and there's good reason why we all should be), here are some of the top sellers at formulated without parabens:

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Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed] 

Pharmagirl, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.


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