Parabens are chemical preservatives that are commonly used in skincare, toiletries and make-up; they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.
Over the past few years, a debate has been building among scientists, product safety regulators and cosmetic manufacturers about whether these ubiquitous chemicals, used for almost 70 years, may actually be harmful to our health.
The health scare around parabens concerns their ability to mimic the female hormone oestrogen. When paraben based products are applied to the skin some of the parabens are absorbed into the blood stream. Excess oestrogen is thought to stimulate cancer growth and when some researchers found parabens in breast cancer tumours they used this as evidence of a link between breast cancer and parabens.
There is great debate about how harmful they really are, so many customers may prefer to avoid them.