Real Talk: What Are Parabens and Why Should You Avoid Them?

Parabens have been on the green beauty list of “no-no’s” for a while now. You may be shopping for paraben-free products (which is great!), but do you actually know what these are are and why you should stay away? Today, we’re going to break down exactly why you don’t want to use parabens. You’ll feel even more confident in your decision to go paraben-free!


What are parabens?

Parabens are a sort of preservative that gained popularity in the 1950’s. They were designed, like other preservatives, to increase a product’s shelf life by preventing the growth of mold or bacteria. They were (and are) used in many, many health and beauty products – but are also present in some of the food we eat.

They often go under the names:

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben


Why are parabens bad?

They disrupt our endocrine system. 

The main reason that people are concerned about parabens is that they can penetrate our skin and enter our bloodstreams. Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen by binding estrogen receptors on cells, which disrupts hormone function. Disrupted hormone function has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.

They have been found in breast tissue.

A British study in 2004 found that five different parabens were present in breast tumor tissue in 19 out of 20 women. While this does not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, the study did illuminate how present parabens are in our systems, and that they can enter (and stay) in the body.

They are affecting our environment.

Our use of parabens is not only affecting our species – recent studies have shown that parabens are present in marine mammals as well, including dolphins, sea otters, and polar bears. This is most likely because parabens are being washed into the sewer system, and therefore, into our oceans and marine life.


What should I do? 

The paraben-free health and beauty market is steadily growing as consumers (like you!) become more concerned about their bodies and the environment! While parabens are the mainstream go-to for preservatives, it’s important to know that there are other options.

1. Check the label

Unfortunately, many companies out there are trying to jump on the green beauty train without making real changes to their ethos or products. Even if a product says that it is “paraben-free,” take a moment to check the ingredients. If you see any of the listed parabens above, it is NOT paraben-free.

2. Do your research

If you’re not sure if your products are paraben-free, take some time to check out the company. See if your ethos aligns with that company, and if they are transparent about their sourcing and ingredients. If a company is truly paraben-free, they shouldn’t have anything to hide!

3. Invest in less

Want less, need less! Some people are concerned about switching to paraben-free products, as these more natural options often have a shorter shelf life. While this may be true, if you find a product that works for you, and can be used daily, you’ll be using it up by the time it would have expired anyway! Plus this is a great way to de-clutter your beauty drawer.

4. Don’t pour products down the drain

Making the switch to paraben-free? Eliminate your old products with caution, and don’t pour them down the drain or into the toilet. As mentioned above, marine life is being affected by our cosmetics and products. While there is no great option for dumping old toxic products, the least harmful way is to dump all of the products into one jar, dispose of that in your regular landfill trash, and recycle your other bottles and containers.

We hope that this post helps to explain a little bit WHY the natural beauty industry (including us!) is so against parabens. When steering clear from an ingredient or preservative, we think it’s important to know the how and why. It basically comes down to being aware, doing your research, and making the switch responsibly – for your skin, and the environment. If you ever have any questions about our company, our stance on preservatives, or anything else, we’re always just an email away at!