Monday, 25 August 2014

What are Parabens?

There is lots of debate about whether we should be worried about using products that have Parabens as part of their formulation. And there are lots of products out there now that boast to be Paraben free. So I decided to do a little research on the subject and to find out what they are and we don't want them!

What are the used for?

Parabens are used by cosmetic companies as a preservative, to make a products shelf life longer. They have been widely used since the 1950's and are relatively inexpensive and effective which makes them so popular with cosmetics companies. There are other natural preservatives such as grapefruit seed oil and vitamin E but they are not as effective over the long term.
There are four chemical parabens that all have a similar molecular structure that are commonly found in our products:

  • Butylparaben 
  • Ethylparaben
  • Methylparaben*
  • Propylparaben*
*These two are the most commonly used.

You will most likely find Parabens in pretty much any personal care product you use such as shampoo's, conditioner's, moisturiser's, makeup, cleansers (both facial and body) and scrubs, the list goes on. All these hold a significant amount of water or aqua and the Parabens are put in place to discourage the growth of microbes or bacteria. (Microbes are little single celled organisms that are extremely adaptable to any condition and believe it or not, are essential in our survival!) Any product with a paraben included will be listed in with the ingredients on the back of your product and sometimes they may even be two of them! 

So why all the debate?

Parabens can be absorbed through the skin and have been known to interfere with hormones. 
In the 1990's parabens were deemed xenoestrogens, agents that mimic estrogen in the body. This increase and disruption of estrogen is something that has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems. A British researcher found parabens present in malignant breast tumors but there is currently no scientific link to parabens causing cancer, so please don't panic yet!
Parabens have also been found to be skin irritants.

So at the end of the day there's currently no need to panic and stop using your products that have parabens as part of their formulation. But if you are concerned you can find many paraben free products out there on the market today. But make sure you read the ingredient list as some times it may say paraben free* or as I have found with sulfate free* (be mindful of the asterisk*!) that some times they lie! (more on that in another post!) 
You may find that some paraben products will be a little more pricey but that could be because using a more natural ingredient to preserve a product is a little more pricey than using the cheaper paraben chemicals. THE BODY SHOP is a good place to start looking for paraben free products.

There are also a list of oils that you can use as moisturisers that will be 100% natural and completely chemical free! My top picks are Coconut oil (body & hair), Avacado oil (face) and Almond oil (hair). But you may want to experiment with them as some may cause break outs. From experience I personally cannot use Olive oil or Coconut oil on my face for long periods of time with out an out right attack from Spot Nation.

I hope that this post has been informative and that you have a better understanding of what parabens are

Have a great day!

Jen x


  1. Hi Jen!
    This is a great post! I've always been wondering what exactly parabens are and why there's so much debate going on about parabens, but I've never really took the time to sit and do some thorough research on what exactly parabens are.
    Thanks so much for this!!

    - Mary |