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Paraben Preservatives Aren’t As Toxic Consumers Think

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Makeup on display.

When people think of cosmetics and personal care products, they think “clean, fresh” and even “luxury.” So “natural” should only enhance those positive qualities, right?

In fact, preservative-free cosmetic products marketed as “natural” could actually be more dangerous than products containing synthetic preservatives.

The most common example is the recent rise in “paraben-free” products. Parabens are among the most widely-used preservatives. They are synthesized in the lab and added to cosmetics to fend off microbes. Though it is possible to find naturally occurring parabens in some fruit juices and wines, those used in industry come from the laboratory. They’ve been added to cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals since the 1950s, but whether or not they pose risks to human health is still debated.

A 1998 study showed that parabens can weakly mimic the body’s own estrogen hormones. And since increased estrogen activity is associated with breast cancer, some people avoid parabens without considering that their disruptive effects on the body may be negligible.

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