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Parabens

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What's Parabens?

Parabens are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products. Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, in order to protect both the products and consumers.

Studies have shown that some parabens can mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body’s cells, and while estrogenic activity is associated with certain forms of breast cancer, parabens have been found present in breast tumors. 

In a 2004 study, the American Cancer Society found parabens in the breast tissue of mastectomy patients but did not find parabens to be a cause of the cancers. However, at this time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't scientific evidence to prove that parabens have any link to cancer or an effect on human health. 

Furthermore, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin may react with UVB leading to increased skin aging, skin cancer and DNA damage.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the European Union banned use of sodium methylparaben in fragrance, because it can strip skin of pigment (SCCPNFP 1999, 2000). While the FDA)limits the levels of parabens allowed in foods and beverages, it does not regulate these chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products. 

Other names include: butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, and Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates. 

References:
EWG's Skin Deep, the Food and Drug Administration, and Wikipedia. 
Okamoto Y, et. al. (2008). "Combined activation of methyl paraben by light irradiation and esterase metabolism toward oxidative DNA damage." Chemical Research in Toxicology. 21 (8): 1594–9. 

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