What is Paraben?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Paraben is a type of chemical that can be found in different forms as a preservative; it is included in a wide variety of personal-care and cosmetic products. In fact, paraben is used in everything from shampoos and deodorants to toothpaste and shaving gel; these chemicals may even be used as additives in foods. Since parabens are widely found in so many different products, it can be hard to avoid them, even though many people have never heard of them at all. However, some people believe that avoiding paraben is a good idea, as it may pose health issues for those who use or consume products containing them.

Paraben is a common ingredient in deodorant.
Paraben is a common ingredient in deodorant.

Unfortunately, deciding whether or not it’s necessary to avoid parabens can be difficult, as some studies assert they are not dangerous, while others claim they are not safe. To deal with this confusion, some people choose to err on the side of caution by avoiding them as much as possible, just in case.

Deodorants prevent odors caused by sweat, while antiperspirants are meant to eliminate sweating.
Deodorants prevent odors caused by sweat, while antiperspirants are meant to eliminate sweating.

One issue some experts raise is that parabens may actually act like estrogen in the body. While this hormone is naturally occurring, it has been linked to breast cancer. As such, some women are concerned about putting a substance that mimics estrogen into their bodies. These chemicals may even cause issues with the development of the male reproductive system when male infants are exposed to it.

Parabens are used in many skin care products as a preservative.
Parabens are used in many skin care products as a preservative.

Parabens are low in cost, and they are said to be very effective for preserving products. This is likely the reason for their widespread use. Manufacturers that use them in their products report that they are safe to use, and it remains to be seen whether the link between paraben and cancer will be proven. Still, it is a fact that paraben can cause other, less frightening problems. For example, there are some people who are allergic to it and may develop rashes when using products that contain it.

For those who choose to avoid paraben, finding products without it can be a bit frustrating. Many consumers are used to buying products that have long shelf lives, but without a preservative, some of these same products products might only last for a week or two. There are some products that contain only natural preservatives, but they may still have shorter-than-optimal shelf lives. Even worse, they may be more expensive because of their all-natural content.

A person who wants to avoid paraben should look for “paraben-free” on product labels. He should also carefully check product labels for these chemicals. For example, he should watch out for products containing propylparaben and ethylparaben, which are commonly used preservatives. He should also avoid products that contain butylparaben, another commonly used form of this substance.

Many makeup products contain parabens.
Many makeup products contain parabens.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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