Oh boy, I know I've already offended some people. Who doesn't love Bath & Body Works, right? If I had to guess, roughly 10% of the population of America got a gift certificate to this store over Christmas (and of that 10%, probably 80% of them teachers since we love our teachers but don't know what they want!).

Let me be clear. For YEARS, I was standing outside "the store that shall not be named" on Dec. 26. Why? Cause I knew I could get great smelling lotion for $2.75 at their annual clearance sale. Did I even pause for one moment wondering why I could buy lotion so cheap? Heck no. If it smelled good, I bought it. Never did I wonder or even care what was in that lotion that allowed BBW to sell it so cheaply.

However, a few years ago, I decided to start to study ingredients because I was making my own natural skin care products. As I learned about the benefits of coconut oil, shea butter and essential oils, I began to look for them in the products I was buying. And they weren't there! If they weren't using these ingredients, then what were they using? Things I had never heard of like Triethanolamine and Imidazolidinyl Urea (which is a formaldehyde releaser, I've since learned) and other things I had heard of and was scared to death of like Propylparaben and Mineral Oil. Let's be clear, Mineral Oil is a by-product of petroleum. It's molecule size is so large it cannot be absorbed by the skin (thank goodness) and sits on top of the skin. My bigger concern, though, is the use of parabens. Whether they go by the name of methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, they are not friends to humans.

A LOT of information is floating around the internet on parabens which are used as a perservative and give products a very long shelf life. Most of the comments are in a blog from copied from someone else's blog with no scientific evidence to back it up. So, here's the scoop. There is no definitive determination that parabens are linked to cancer. But that doesn't mean I don't find it them scary.

Here's what the FDA has to say on the issue. All of the underlined words were underlined by me:

A study published in 2004 (Darbre, in the Journal of Applied Toxicology) detected parabens in breast tumors. The study also discussed this information in the context of the weak estrogen-like properties of parabens and the influence of estrogen on breast cancer. However, the study left several questions unanswered. For example, the study did not show that parabens cause cancer, or that they are harmful in any way, and the study did not look at possible paraben levels in normal tissue.

FDA is aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. In general, cosmetic manufacturers may use any ingredient they choose, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation.

The FDA is saying there is no direct link between parabens and cancer, but parabens do 1) increase estrogen which we know is linked to breast cancer and 2) they don't authorize cosmetic ingredients anyway. So I'm not very bright, but it seems to me that even though studies (ok, 1 study) shows there's no direct link between parabens and cancer, why risk it? The FDA has been wrong before (just look at all the lawyer commercials for drugs that have been recalled).

I'll leave it up to you. Would you rather use ingredients you can't understand that might (or might not) hurt your well-being, or ones like Aloe Juice, Rose Distillate, and Organic Coconut Oil? Yes, they cost a little more, but in my view, you're either going to pay now in the form of using better products or later in the form of higher health bills.

Bottom line, I don't care if you buy my products or some other natural products. That's the truth. I just want awareness to grow among my friends that just because it's packaged pretty, smells pretty, and has a natural sounding name, doesn't necessarily mean it's safe.

So now you can see why friends don't let friends shop at Bath and Body Works. Cause true friends care about what you put on and in your body.

For natural alternatives that also smell amazing, visit our site at www.RafaNatural.com.