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Do Your Beauty Products Contain Parabens?

December 10, 2013

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By now we’ve all heard the buzzword “paraben-free.” But exactly what are parabens and why should we avoid them?

Parabens are among the most commonly used preservatives in cosmetic products. That means they’re found in everything from the shampoo and shaving cream to the moisturizer and makeup many of us use every day, and they are absorbed through our body’s largest organ, our skin. You may even be unknowingly eating parabens when you consume certain pharmaceuticals, foods, and drinks.

The most common parabens used in cosmetic and beauty products are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Typically, more than one paraben is used in a single product, and they are often combined with other types of preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungus and other funky microbes.

Are parabens dangerous?

Although the FDA maintains there is no reason to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens, a study published in 2004 detected parabens in breast tumors. The correlation is that parabens can mimic the function of the naturally occurring hormone estrogen, and exposure to external estrogens has been associated with certain forms of breast cancer.

While not everyone who uses products with parabens has an allergic reaction, people who are sensitive to paraben mixtures may develop contact dermatitis.  And research shows that sensitivity to topical products may be more common, because reactions to orally ingested foods containing parabens are rare.

While the jury’s still out if parabens are actually dangerous, many consumers are choosing to avoid the chemicals as much as possible.

How you can go paraben-free

As consumers, it’s up to us to be proactive about our product picks. Most major brands of deodorants and antiperspirants don’t currently contain parabens. But to find out if parabens are lurking in your favorite beauty products, you should:

1. Look on the label for the following ingredients: methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben or butylparaben.

2. Find out which company makes the product you use. See if there is an ingredient list available on the product itself or on its website.  If not, email or call the company and ask if their product contains parabens.

To be on the safe side, there are plenty of paraben-free products on the market. Some of the bigger and more affordable paraben-free brand names that you can find at the drugstore include:

  • Burt’s Bees
  • Dr. Hauschka
  • Tom’s of Maine
  • Yes to …

 You can even take it a step further and make your own beauty products at home. Try this DIY Baking Soda Shampoo.

Do you plan to go paraben-free?