What are parabens?

Did you know exposure to parabens from a number of personal care products could contribute to many health problems?

Parabens are synthetic compounds used as preservatives in many pharmaceutical, cosmetic and make-up products such as moisturizers, shampoos, toothpastes and deodorants. They stop the growth of fungus, bacteria and other harmful pathogens. They were first commercialised in the 1950s.

Individual products usually have small amounts of parabens within safe limits. But these days, many people use a lot of personal care products. Public health advocates worry that cumulative exposure to parabens from a number of different products could lead to an increase in the amount of these chemicals in our bodies, beyond safe limits, contributing to many health problems. Parabens can penetrate the skin and have been linked to skin imitation, reproductive neurological and immunological problems. A major health concern is that parabens disrupt hormone function, an effect which is linked to heightened risk of breast cancer.

The European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have prohibited the use of five types of parabens in cosmetic products.

But in countries like the U.S. and India, no such law exists. However, consumers in these countries can exercise other options. Several natural and organic cosmetic companies have found alternatives to parabens in beauty products. Some companies have even created preservative-free products which have a shorter shelf life than conventional products.

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