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Yay or nay: Cosmetics can cause cancer

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moisturiser.jpgI'm always on the lookout for topics that divide the green community, and this is one I can't see going away any time soon: the reported links between certain cosmetics additives and cancer (as well as other health-threatening conditions).

The most commonly identified culprits are parabens (used as a preservative in facecreams, sunblock and other lotions), sodium lauryl sulphate (found in various household and personal cleaning products) and aluminium used for anti-perspirant. All of these chemicals have at some point been identified as carcinogens, and subsequently been involved in enough health scares to have given rise to whole industries selling products that don't contain them, with many people sufficiently deterred by their bad press to avoid them altogether.

But the jury is still very much out on the validity of these claims. While there is a definite move away from these ingredients in the natural beauty industry, there are just as many reasons to dismiss the rumours as scare stories. Dr. Ben Goldacre, a voice of reason in all matters medical has pointed out in his Bad Science blog that while it may be true that parabens have been found in breast cancer cells, this doesn't tell us much when nobody has bothered to look for them in normal cells.

So what do you think: do you avoid certain ingredients in cosmetics, and if so, which ones? Are there any others you think people should be aware of, and what's the evidence behind your avoiding them?

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