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Are Your Toiletries As Safe As You Think?

Updated on June 1, 2010

Over the last few years, there have been concerns that toiletries are not as safe as was previously thought. One of the most recent of these concerns the use of parabens. These are commonly used in a wide range of toiletries and cosmetics, despite the fact that they have been linked with cancer.

What Are Parabens?

Parabens are chemicals that are frequently used as a preservative in various toiletries and cosmetics. Their role is to destroy bacteria and prevent mould, as well as lengthen the shelf life of the product in question. Although they are naturally present in certain foods, the parabens found in beauty products are synthetically produced. As a rough estimate, it is thought that as much as ninety per cent of toiletries and cosmetics contain parabens.

Why Are They Considered Unsafe?

As parabens are usually non-toxic, they have been deemed safe to use in the past. However, there have been indications that parabens may be less safe than was previously thought. Studies conducted in the UK have raised concerns that parabens may contribute to the development of breast cancer. In these studies, parabens had much the same effect as the female estrogen hormone, albeit on a lesser scale. Estrogen is believed to encourage the development of tumors in the breast area, which is one reason why treatment for breast cancer aims to decrease the production of estrogen in the body. These studies do not appear to be backed up by medical evidence in either the UK or the US as other studies have shown that the use of toiletries which contain parabens does not necessarily increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. For men, studies have indicated that sperm count and levels of testosterone can be affected by parabens. As with the breast cancer studies, this has not been definitely proven. The findings from such studies has been enough to cause considerable concern regarding the safety of toiletries that contain parabens.

The concern regarding parabens stems from the fact that they are absorbed into the bloodstream after coming into contact with your skin. The more contact that the product has with your skin, the more likely it is to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Creams and lotions that need to be left on the skin for several hours pose the greatest risk.

How Can I Protect Myself?

If you are worried about the possible effects of parabens, look for toiletries and cosmetics that are parabens-free. To be on the safe side, some companies have made the decision to sell parabens-free products. Holland and Barrett are one example of this. Parabens-free products may retail at higher prices than the products that do contain parabens, but it can be worth paying extra to have more control over what is going into your body.

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