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What Are Parabens?

July 19, 2019

In the beauty world, there are endless words to keep up with—especially when it comes to product ingredients. One of the latest to gain buzz, and not necessarily the good kind, is parabens. You may have heard that you should avoid products with parabens, but do you even know what parabens are? Here’s a hint: They’re often found in just about every single type of cosmetic, hair care, and skin care product out there, from moisturizer to shampoo to makeup and everything in between. But there are also plenty of paraben free options out there. Keep reading for the full lowdown on parabens, including what they are, why they’re used, and a round-up of paraben-free products you can consider as an alternative.


You’ve heard the word paraben, but we’re guessing you don’t know exactly what parabens are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parabens are man-made chemicals that are often used as preservatives in all sorts of products, including cosmetics and also foods and beverages. Parabens are used as preservatives in order to help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold within a product’s formula, per the Food & Drug Administration. Oftentimes, one product will contain multiple different types of parabens.


According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, parabens have been used as preservatives in the cosmetics, food, and pharmaceutical industries for decades—more than 70 years, to be exact. From an allergy standpoint, research claims that parabens remain one of the least allergenic preservatives available.

If you’re wondering whether or not preservatives in your personal use products are really necessary, the answer is a resounding yes. Without proper preservatives, things like bacteria, fungi, mold, and yeasts can begin to grow and populate, which can make cosmetics harmful, according to Michigan State University. Additionally, we are constantly using our hands to touch, use, and apply cosmetics and, as gross as it sounds, the microorganisms on your hands can contaminate a product over time—which is another reason manufacturers add parabens to their product formulas.

Still, parabens have been the subject of much debate in recent years. It is true that when a product containing parabens is applied onto the skin, the skin does absorb the parabens, according to the CDC. However, parabens that enter the body are also quickly excreted out naturally. Another reason that parabens have been in the spotlight (often in a negative light) is because these chemicals, which include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, also have weak estrogenic effects within the body, according to Harvard Medical School.


If you’re a beauty minimalist and you’re feeling curious about using paraben-free products, here are some of our best options.


Not only is this shampoo and conditioner duo paraben-free, but it’s also free of sulfates. We’re talking about the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Shampoo and the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Conditioner, which is formulated to cleanse and condition strands while also replenishing and locking in moisture. Bonus: If you’ve got color-treated hair, this system also works to keep your hue looking pure for up to four weeks.


If you haven’t hopped aboard the purple shampoo and conditioner craze, consider this your introduction: Using purple-toned shampoo and conditioner can help tone brassiness from color-treated strands. Our best paraben-free purple shampoo and conditioner is the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Brass Toning Purple Sulfate Free Shampoo and the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Brass Toning Sulfate Free Conditioner. Used together, this duo works to moisturize hair and also neutralize brassy tones.


Want to go paraben-free in your skin care routine, too? No problem—behold, our best skin care products formulated without parabens.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Formulated with 1.5% hyaluronic acid, this facial serum is ultra-moisturizing and quick absorbing. Smooth it onto your face and neck twice a day to replenish hydration for plumped, more youthful-looking skin. 

L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum: This antioxidant-rich face serum contains 10% pure vitamin C. Use it morning and night after cleansing to visibly boost radiance and help neutralize free radicals.

L'Oréal Paris Age Perfect Hydra Nutrition Manuka Honey Eye Gel: This nourishing, super hydrating and cooling eye cream is packaged in a convenient rollerball applicator. Swipe it underneath your eyes to help minimize the appearance of dark circles and puffiness.

Now that you’re caught up on parabens, it’s time to learn about another beauty buzzword we touched on here: sulfates. Here are Our Best Sulfate Free Shampoos to Try Now.

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