Parabens are chemical preservatives that are widely used in various domestic products, including cosmetics, moisturizers, lotions, shampoos and even tanning products. This class of preservatives is not only inexpensive, but they also offer effective protection against microbes for a long duration. There are several different types of parabens, but the most commonly used in cosmetic products include butyl, methyl and propyl parabens. Recently, there has been growing concern over the use of parabens causing potentially dangerous side effects.

A man-made chemical compound, paraben is present in different forms of preservatives. This substance is added to an assortment of cosmetic and personal-care products. As parabens are commonly present in a wide range of products, these days it is very difficult to avoid them. However, it is possible that several people using them in various products have not heard of this synthetic preservative yet. Nevertheless, a section of people are of the view that it is beneficial to avoid products containing parabens. In fact, parabens may lead to various health problems for both those who use the products topically or consume them.

Often some experts point out that inside the body, parabens may work in the same way as estrogen does. While estrogen is a naturally occurring hormone, it has been associated with breast cancer. In any way, a section of women are already concerned about applying or consuming any substance that imitates the action of estrogen in their body. Such chemicals may also lead to issues related to the reproductive system in males, especially when male infants come in contact with them.

Parabens are relatively inexpensive and it is believed that they preserve products effectively. Perhaps, this is why they are used extensively as preservatives. Manufacturers using parabens in their products claim that these chemicals are safe for use by most and now people are waiting to see if scientists are able to find any relation between paraben use and development of cancer. Whether or not it is established that parabens are responsible for cancerous growths, the fact remains that they may lead to other, less serious health problems. For instance, a number of people are allergic to parabens and when they use this substance, they may develop rashes - both if they apply products containing parabens topically or consume them.

On the other hand, people who prefer to avoid parabens may find it difficult to get other products without this synthetic preservative. Often, their search for alternative products may prove to be trying. Several consumers usually have the habit of purchasing products with long shelf lives, but with no preservative added. In fact, when you buy such products, you will find that they usually do not last for more than a couple of weeks. Some products available in the market only have natural preservatives and they remain viable for much less than the optimal shelf life. What may be even worse is that such products may be very expensive as they contain only natural substances.

Any individual wanting to avoid parabens should try to find products that have "paraben-free" written on their labels. Moreover, they ought to carefully examine the product labels to see if they contain any such synthetic preservative. For instance, they need to be cautious about products that contain chemicals like ethylparaben or propylparaben. These two substances are widely used in the form of preservatives. At the same time, such people should also keep away from products containing butylparaben, which is another form of this synthetic preservative and used extensively.

It is an irony that many of the products containing parabens are actually beauty products like creams, lotions and moisturizers, which are meant to improve the health and glow of the skin, but findings of several studies have shown that they actually speed up the aging process of the skin.

Scientists at Japan's Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine have discovered that using any paraben of the methyl type enhances the skin's vulnerability to be damaged when exposed to the sun. Especially when people using such products expose their skin to the ultraviolet (UV) rays, their skin cells expire much faster compared to the usual pace. Hence, it is important for everyone to go through the product labels and find if they contain any parabens, especially methylparabens, prior to purchasing as skin care product.