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Because You Asked

What Are Parabens and Why Should I Avoid Them?

By Recyclebank |

It wouldn’t be unwise to avoid this group of synthetic preservatives.

Dear Recyclebank,

I’ve heard that I should choose paraben-free products. What are parabens, and why should I avoid them?

-Hannah K., Tallahassee, FL


Dear Hannah,

Parabens are a group of chemicals commonly used as preservatives in beauty products such as makeup, lotion, and shampoo. Common parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, and a combination of parabens may be used with each other and/or with other preservatives. Preservatives, including parabens, do exactly what their name says: they preserve. They keep beauty products from going bad or growing bacteria as quickly. But the practical benefits come with possible health trade-offs.

Paraben exposure has been linked to breast cancer and endocrine disruption (the endocrine system produces hormones), likely because parabens can behave similar to estrogen. The link is not definitive, and, until determined otherwise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration believes parabens are safe at low levels. However, the FDA’s position is based on the existing body of research, which is conflicting and insufficient. There simply isn’t enough research or definitive research to declare parabens safe for our bodies and the environment. That’s worrisome in itself, since parabens are synthetic and are so closely and frequently applied to our bodies via the many beauty products that contain them. Why take the risk when paraben-free alternatives exist?

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Environmental Working Group


What are some ingredients you try to avoid when you buy products? Tell us in the comments below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • joanna l. 7 days ago
    Check out The Environmental Working Groups Data Base for cosmetics and personal care products. The items are rated for toxicity and they do the science for you...
  • Kelley K. 1 month ago
    I avoid & check ingredients in my nail polish with every bottle I buy, no formaldehyde in my bottle anymore, but also I do not purchase or support makeup companies or brands that test on animals or use parabens, or list of other certain ingredients. Easy tip, if you see a little cartoon bunny head on your health or beauty product, that is there to tell you it is clean and free & does not test on an8mals!
  • Audrey N. 1 month ago
    I haven’t used parabens or sulfates in my hair in at least 5 years but I never really thought to look for them in skin care or makeup.
  • Kate G. 1 month ago
    Paraben free is the way to go but so hard to find products that are or that dont have a "similar paraben" under a different name . All about selling and money :(
  • tommy b. 1 month ago
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