Parabens are an inexpensive preservative found in many skincare products. They can be listed in the ingredients as methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, benzylparaben, isobutylparaben and propylparaben. Don’t worry about memorizing all those names though, if it ends with paraben, it is a paraben.
Aside from being a culprit in contact dermatitis (a rash), parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen in the body, and excess estrogen can lead to reproductive tumors. Parabens have also been found in breast cancer tumors. Parabens are absorbed through the skin. You can read a bit more at http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=291 and http://www.bubbleandbee.com/Parabens.html
To avoid parabens, look for natural and organic skincare and haircare products. Thankfully, paraben free products are getting easier to find, even at traditional drug stores and supermarket. Be sure to read the ingredient list carefully, and feel free to email me with any questions or for product recommendations.