Parabens and what it means on your beauty products!


Have you ever wondered what the phrase contains parabens or paraben-free written on your beauty product means?

Are you a stickler for natural products and chemical-free cosmetics? If you are, then you’re in the right place. 

It’s crucial that we first learn what parabens are.

Parabens are chemical preservatives used in most skincare, beauty and hair care products that increase their shelf life. If you want to get down and dirty with their definition, they are esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid. They prevent bacteria, fungi and mould in products. In a profit hunting market, the life of a product is of utmost importance. However, with the rise of consumerism today, the spotlight has shifted to the consumer’s needs. This, in turn, has led to the birth of paraben-free products!

Are parabens bad?

At this point, you must be thinking, ‘I don’t want fungus and mould in my creams!’ 

That is a perfectly normal response. None of us wants that. However, parabens can harm your health over a long period or if used frequently in large quantities. The amount of preservative used in each product might seem negligible. Still, studies have proven that they penetrate the skin and get stored in different body parts, most commonly the breasts. There has been evidence of parabens being found in the tissue of people with breast cancer as well. There is no direct scientific proof, however, that it causes cancer.

Areas of concern when it comes to a label that says ‘CONTAINS PARABENS’.

  • Parabens can disturb endocrine and hormone function as they tend to mimic estrogen. In some cases, they can be linked to breast cancer or fertility issues. 
  • Some types of parabens like benzylparaben, Isopropylparaben, pentylparaben, isobutylparaben and phenylparaben are banned by the European scientific committee of consumer safety (SCCS).
  • However, this is not very common; they can cause allergic reactions such as hives, redness, itchy skin, irritation, and flaking.  

So what is paraben-free?

When buying commodities for skincare, haircare, makeup and other uses, they could be labelled ‘Paraben Free’. They write this to indicate that no parabens have been included in the making of that product. It is also important to note that ‘paraben free’ is not the same as ‘preservative free’.

What do they use instead of parabens?

Today a host of natural alternatives to paraben are used to provide the same function. While parabens are naturally occurring, for commercial use, they artificially replicate them.

Can you contribute to saving the environment by using paraben-free products?

Yes, you can! When using items containing parabens, there is a risk of entering your sewage water systems and eventually ending up in rivers and oceans. This can lead to marine life getting affected by these chemicals. Studies have shown that evidence of parabens exists in various aquatic mammals.  

How to make the best decision while buying chemical-free products?

The best thing to do is read your label very well. A good look at the ingredients on your product label will give you an idea of what is in them. If you want to opt for a paraben-free product, then it is helpful to look out for the following common parabens used in cosmetics:

  1. Butylparaben 
  2. Methylparaben  
  3. Propylparaben

On the other hand, if you are looking for a chemical-free experience, it’s best not to rely on just a ‘paraben free’ label. Some companies might not use parabens but use other synthetic ingredients in their products. So I guess the takeaway here is:

‘Always read your label!’

Should you stop using parabens completely? 

While that is your call, there is no immediate need to panic or boycott them as the amount used in commodities is almost negligible. 

The silver lining 

The jury is still out on parabens. Every individual decides what they want to expose their skin to. However, today, you have many other natural preservative options. 

All you have to do is choose!


  1. Are parabens harmful to the skin?

Most products have a minimal amount of parabens; therefore, they are not harmful in small quantities. There is not enough scientific research to prove the extent to which they cause harm to the body. What we do know, however, is that in large quantities and over a long time, it can cause issues, as mentioned above.

2. What is the benefit of paraben free?

Paraben-free products have many benefits. They are gentle and pleasing to use for babies as their skin can be more sensitive. By avoiding them, you can avoid a potential allergic reaction in case you have an allergy that you are unaware of. 

3. Which parabens are safe?

Methylparaben is a better option compared to the other parabens as it is flushed out of the body faster. 

4. What are the natural alternatives to parabens?

Natural alternatives can include gluconate, leucidal liquid, lactobacillus and many more. 



Picture of Namya Naresh

Namya Naresh

An obsessive dreamer, vegetarian foodie and shy singer, Namya spends her time immersed in the world of Literature and Music. She is currently writing her first novel, advocating for mental health, self-love and bringing you your daily dose of skincare with CureSkin!