You’ve heard the word “parabens” bandied about, but you aren’t quite sure why they’re such a big deal. Here are five fast facts to educate yourself about them and what they mean to your skin care!

 1. Parabens are Everywhere!

Take a look in your bathroom’s cabinet. Chances are, you’re the unwitting host to dozens of different parabens. They go by many different names – methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben – so make sure to look for “paraben” at the tail end of the word to better acquaint yourself with your product’s ingredients. Parabens are most commonly found in shampoos, lotions, deodorants, and body washes.

 2. Parabens are Preservatives

Just as jam gets its shelf life from preservatives, skin care products owe their longevity to parabens. This compound, which is an ester of hydroxybenzoic acid, allows cosmetics companies to create goods that will last. Parabens fight the bacteria that breaks down products, making them the ultimate “skincare preservative”.

 3. Parabens are Linked to Breast Cancer

A recent study found paraben esters in 99% of the breast cancer tissues that were sampled. Because parabens are xenoestrogens (they mimic estrogen), they increase the risk of cancer. Parabens are absorbed through the skin and can stay in the body’s system for extended periods of time to make them more likely to have a negative effect.

 4. Parabens Are Still A Mystery

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the long-term effects of parabens are still largely unknown. They could be relatively benign – but they could also be the leading agents of fertility issues, cancer, and other health concerns. Only time will tell, but research thus far suggests that they could have detrimental effects to the body.

 5. There Are Other Options

If the thought of parabens makes your skin crawl, fear not! Breast Cancer Action has a lengthy list of skincare and cosmetics companies that have pledged to be paraben-free. Scientific research still has a lot of research ahead of them about the health effects of parabens – but if you want to play it safe, it’s very easy to do so.