Monday, August 11, 2008

Dangers of Parabens in Skin Products

It’s the time of year when we pay especially close attention to slathering ourselves with sunscreens and lotions. But as you’re squeezing your favorite skin care product out of the tube, have you ever stopped to examine what’s on the label?

Most body care products – including shampoos and conditioners, lotions, deodorants and antiperspirants, sunscreens, and cosmetics – include parabens, synthetic chemicals which act as preservatives. There are six primary types of parabens: benzyl, butyl, ethyl, isobutyl, methyl, and propyl. These petroleum-based chemicals prevent the growth of bacteria, and often two or more of the types are combined to further aid in extending the product’s shelf life. For quite a while, it seemed the only problem with these preservatives was the occasional allergic reaction. But more recent studies have forced consumers to take a closer look at the effects of parabens.

Parabens can have an effect on the body that closely mimics estrogen, which can lead to diminished muscle mass, extra fat storage, and even male breast growth. What’s more, a 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found a clear link between parabens and breast cancer; tissue samples from 20 different breast tumors contained traces of the preservative. The risk is especially high in leave-on products such as lotion and sunscreens, due to the prolonged amount of time that the body is exposed to the chemicals.

Luckily, more products are going “paraben-free.” If you’re looking for a lower-risk body care product, check the label for the following (safe!) preservatives:

Grapefruit seed extract
Potassium sorbate
Sorbic acid
Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
Retinyl (Vitamin A)
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)


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