The Parabens Debate: Are they safe or not?

Are parabens safe?

Are parabens in cosmetics safe and natural? No. Here’s why.

Last week I ran across a graphic on Facebook that gave me pause. In big bold font it said, “Yes to Parabens!” Parabens are kind of the poster child for the Safe Cosmetics movement, so I was a little bit confused. I’m also used to seeing industry try to healthwash their toxic products and ingredients.

If you don’t want to click over to the original graphic and text, the gist is that parabens occur in berries, so there’s no reason to worry about them in your cosmetics.

When it comes to claims like this in food, I’m a pro, but in cosmetics ingredients my knowledge isn’t as rock solid. That’s why I sent the link above to my editor here at Feelgood Style, Liz Thompson. The following text is what Liz had to say about parabens and why they are definitely not innocuous ingredients. I added in some links to sources and some emphasis to the points that stood out for me.

Synthetic parabens may not be the most harmful of harmful cosmetic ingredients but they are on the list.

They may be used in small amounts, but most cosmetics products that contain parabens contain more than one type of paraben and that ups your exposure. Companies who use parabens always use that low limit as an out.

Certain formulations do require a preservative to be safe, but parabens are certainly not the only option. There are many safe natural preservative ingredients and systems that are healthier alternatives to synthetics.

Parabens are often linked to breast cancer but everyone who has ever done even a little research knows that it is because of their potential to make existing tumors grow more quickly. A bad thing. They have not yet been linked to actually causing breast cancer. But that is not news

The fact that the FDA and even the American Cancer Society deem parabens safe is not much of a surprise. I mean FDA is currently responsible for the under-regulation of our cosmetics, and there are many worse chemicals on the market than parabens. The Personal Care Products Council [referenced on the Facebook page] is made up of a bunch of personal care product companies, so…

“The Bottom Line” is really…we are not talking about naturally occurring parabens being harmful. We are talking about synthetic man made crap being added to stuff we rub on our bodies. I can’t tell if the author is trying to make them seem better by relating them to food, or if she is afraid of them in food form but not synthetic. Or maybe just doesn’t know enough about either.

That was a long response but if you need more I’ve written a lot about parabens. The thing that really bugs me about the whole parabens thing is that they were kind of made the poster child for bad cosmetic ingredients. They are now super recognizable but people don’t know why you should avoid them, or other ingredients for that matter.

What do you guys think about parabens in your cosmetics? Do you avoid them now? Will you continue to?

Image Credit: Washing Hair photo via Shutterstock


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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .
  • At the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, we are definitely concerned about parabens intentionally added to cosmetics and personal care products. A major concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. To get involved in the safe cosmetics movement and learn more about the science, go to http://www.safecosmetics.org/join