Green is in these days, and many people are interested in purchasing natural products. New organic food and other green products seem to appear each day -- in fact, in 2006, manufacturers produced 2,000 new personal care products that were marketed as organic or natural [source: Birnbaum]. With growing concern over what you put in and on your body, you may have become more label-conscious. But when you look at the label of a lotion, you're probably not surprised if you don't recognize many of the difficult-to-pronounce ingredients. What are these mystery ingredients? And could some of them be bad for your health?
Some of these ingredients are preservatives, a common and necessary ingredient in skin care products. Preservatives prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria in cosmetics, and they also prevent damage to the product from oxygen and light exposure. In fact, if a skin care product contains water, it must contain preservatives [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Parabens are one type of preservative -- they're antifungal agents used in food, pharmaceuticals and skin care products [source U.S. Food and Drug Administration]. Although they're common preservatives, you may have recently heard about them in the news for other reasons, and you may be wondering if using products that contain them will increase your cancer risk. This prospect naturally alarms many people -- especially because parabens are such a common ingredient. But once you understand parabens, the reality of the cancer risk and the availability of paraben-free products, you'll be better equipped to make product decisions. Read on to learn exactly what parabens are and why they're so commonly used.