Parabens are a category of chemical preservatives that have been used in beauty products since the 1920s. The beauty industry has long relied on parabens to increase the shelf life of products such as:

  • shampoos
  • conditioners
  • skin care products
  • soaps

But over the past decade, the side effects of long-term exposure to parabens have become a cause for concern. While nearly all beauty products use some kind of preservatives to make their products last longer, paraben-free cosmetics may be safer to use.

The term “paraben-free” is meant to let consumers know that these harmful chemicals aren’t a part of the product formula.

This article will explore why paraben-free products may be better to use and help you get started finding products that have ditched paraben preservatives.

Parabens can mimic the human hormone estrogen. This means that they may interfere with the hormone balance of your body, no matter your sex.

The estrogenic activity of parabens has been shown to interfere with the way that your body’s hormones regulate. This is cause for concern because it could mean parabens influence reproductive activities, like pregnancy and menstruation.

Research has also demonstrated that parabens can easily absorb through your skin, and daily application of beauty products with parabens can cause them to accumulate in your system. Steady exposure to parabens may play a part in the growth of breast cancer cells in women. There’s also an environmental impact.

Some people have an allergic reaction to parabens. This reaction can include:

  • redness
  • irritation
  • itchy skin
  • flaking
  • hives

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t currently have regulations involving parabens. Cosmetics don’t need to be tested or approved by the FDA before they’re put on the market, and preservative ingredients (including parabens) aren’t considered any different than other ingredients in cosmetic formulas.

Parabens are commonly found in many kinds of beauty products, including:

There are lots of alternatives if you’re looking for paraben-free beauty products.


These brands have committed to paraben-free formulas for all of their makeup products:

  • Real Purity
  • Mineralogie
  • Afterglow Cosmetics

Most bareMinerals products are paraben-free, but there are still some bareMinerals formulas that contain parabens. Read labels carefully if you’re looking to avoid parabens.

Clinique products haven’t always been paraben-free, but a recent update to their formulas removed all parabens from their cosmetics.

Skin care

These companies have committed to paraben-free formulas for all of their skin care products:

  • Burt’s Bees
  • Naturopathica

Skin care brand Aveeno offers many paraben-free products, but not all of their products are free from parabens. Here’s a list of Aveeno’s paraben-free products.

There are Cetaphil products that are paraben-free, but not all products made by Cetaphil are made without parabens. Cetaphil provides a list of its paraben-free skin care products.


Lots of shampoo brands offer paraben-free products. But few brands carry zero parabens in any of their formulas. The following brands claim to be paraben-free “whenever possible,” but you should still check the label before purchasing if you’re looking for a paraben-free product:

  • SheaMoisture shampoos and conditioners
  • Trader Joe’s shampoos and conditioners
  • Morrocco Method hair care products
  • Real Purity hair care

If a product is paraben-free, the label will typically state “free from parabens” or “0% parabens” as a part of its packaging.

If you’re not sure if a product is paraben-free, you can look at the ingredients list on the back of the bottle. Methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben are three of the most common paraben ingredients.

Isopropylparaben and isobutylparaben also indicate parabens are present. The word “parahydroxybenzoate” is a synonym for parabens.

Parabens may have a negative impact on your health, especially if you’re in contact with them on a regular basis through your daily beauty routine. There’s currently no FDA regulation that limits the number of parabens that are present in your beauty products and cosmetics.

If you’re concerned about the impact of parabens, there’s a wide array of paraben-free beauty brands and paraben-free cosmetic formulas that can reduce your paraben exposure.