Parabens are used to prevent bacteria and fungi from forming in personal care products like moisturizers, lipstick, foundation, concealer, soaps, shampoo, anti-wrinkle creams and other topical ointments. They’re an ester compound formed from alcohol and organic acid. Parabens are listed in some of your favorite products under a wide variety of names including methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and isobutylparaben. They’ve been used as a preservative in products for over 70 years but now researchers are concerned that they may cause health issues. Known as endocrine disruptors, parabens are a chemical that can increase the production of certain hormones and decrease the production of others because of their ability to mimic hormones in the body. By interfering with hormone signals and accumulating on organs that produce hormones, they cause disruption in the normal functioning of the body. As a result, they’ve been linked to an increase in breast cancer rates and reproductive toxicity. Manufacturers contend that they’re found in trace amounts, not enough to harm the body. But today, because parabens are found in so many personal care products, these trace amounts add up. Don’t stress about cutting them out completely, because parabens are all around us, but it is a good idea to reduce your exposure where possible. For example, choose more natural skincare products that of free of parabens. It will either say it on the label or look for the ingredients listed above. Sara Novak is a Natural Health Care Expert for Zax Health. Follow her on Twitter at @sarafnovak.