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Are Parabens Really Safe
by: Lisa Taylor Barger
You've probably heard the news stories about parabens and the controversy surrounding their use in personal care products. Here's a brief, but fair, look at this complicated issue:
No cosmetic can ever be truly "natural"-no matter what the manufacturer claims-but some ingredients are closer than others. Parabens have long been considered an ideal compromise and until quite recently were considered one of the safest preservative methods available. But an article published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology has cast doubt on the safety of parabens and, especially, their potential role in the development of some types breast cancers.
Scientists have known for some time that parabens can mimic the effect of estrogen when used on lab animals but in early 2004, British researchers from the University of Reading announced that they had found parabens in in the cancerous tumors of human breast cancer patients. Equally concerning is the fact that researchers believe that the form of parabens found in those tumors indicate that the parabens were absorbed topically and not taken orally. But most frightening is the fact that parabens were found in EVERY sample.
It's important to note that this was a very, very small study--only 20 women--and there's absolutely no way to tell what, if any, skin care products are implicated. Although the lead researcher has cautioned that there's no definitive proof that parabens actually cause breast cancers, he has already called for more study.
Should YOU Be Concerned? Manufacturers are. Many of the leaders in the natural products industry have already announced plans to discontinue the use of parabens and more are expected to follow suit.
How do you know if your skin care products contain parabens? Read the labels. All cosmetics are required by law to carry full ingredient lists. If your skin care products don't have ingredients listed, or you can't find the preservative in the list, be suspicious. Be equally suspicious of manufacturers who claim to use only natural essential oils or grapefruit seed extract. In day-to-day usage, they just don't work as promised.
One of the most exciting new preservatives being used today is Hydroxymethylglycinate, a derivative of the naturally occurring amino acid Glycine. It's considered extremely safe and seems to be less apt to cause allergic reactions than other preservatives.
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