The Unpretty Truth about Parabens

Categories: Natural Beauty 411,Talia's Must Read,Uncategorized,

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The makeup in the above picture make look gorgeous, but is it lurking with wicked-for-our-health parabens? Given that most cosmetics contain them, it is highly likely! Let’s take a look at why parabens are gross for our bodies and the unpretty things that they do.

Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and other beauty products. These chemicals are employed to prevent fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in everything from our favorite mascara to shampoos and lotions. The prevention of microbial growth is an inestimable job given the moist, tropic-like environments of our bathrooms and the itty bitty, very icky microscopic critters that tend to grow there. No wonder so many cosmetics companies use parabens!

Parabens are also used by cosmetics companies for an entirely different purpose. And when used for this purpose, they aren’t even listed as an ingredient on the label! Parabens are used to give products an extra kick of aromatic delight. In other words, they are used as fragrances, yet all you will see on the label is the word “fragrance”. This is because fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets, so the government has no laws whatsoever regarding the labeling of ingredients use in these “fragrance” cocktails. Seriously, USDA? You are okay with this? Mindddd blowinggg.

There are five commonly used parabens you should know about: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben.

Wowza! Between 75-90 percent of cosmetics contain at least one of these parabens. Gross!

Parabens adversely affect the health of our bodies in numerous ways and their is nothing pretty about this!


1) Are absorbed by our skin cells effortlessly and travel directly to our bloodstreams with no barriers.
2) Have been shown to interfere with hormone function (endocrine disruption).
3) Mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. Higher levels of estrogen have been linked to a greater risk of breast cancer!
4) Studies have found parabens in human breast cancer tissue, which has been raising questions about a potential association between parabens in cosmetics and breast cancer.
5) May interfere with male reproductive functions.
6) Methylparaben reacts with UVB, resulting in skin aging and DNA damage.

That is a heck of a lotta bad stuff in that list. We all know that drugs are bad for us and we all know that junk foods are junk foods and do nasty things to our bodies, but who thought even just one ingredient in cosmetics was linked to so many health problems?

FYI: Interestingly, parabens naturally occur in some plant foods, such as strawberries, currants, vanilla, carrots, onions and barley. However, there is a substantial difference between the type of parabens found in certain plant foods and cosmetics. The type found in cosmetics is synthetically produced and is derived from petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum and they do not belong in the makeup we put on our faces! The type found in plants is metabolized when eaten and is not nearly as estrogenic as the man-made type. Parabens in cosmetics bypass the metabolic process, enter the bloodstream and meet body organs completely intact.

It is estimated that 50 mg of parabens from cosmetics are absorbed by females each day!

The above list consists of scientific research correlating paraben exposure to adverse health effects, yet do we poccess concrete evidence that the synthetically produced parabens in beauty products directly result in adverse health effects?

This is the lowdown.

1) A 2004 UK study discovered traces of five different types of parabens in the breast tumors of 19 out of 20 women with breast cancer. While this doesn’t prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, this is pretty darn relavant because this study did locate the presence of intact parabens unaltered by the body’s metabolism, which shows us that synthetic parabens penetrate skin and remain in breast tissue.
2) Parabens have been found in biopsies from breast tumors at concentrations similar to those found in consumer products.

Why are parabens so widely used?

They are cheap and work highly effectively. Parabens replaced formaldehyde (which is even worse!) quite a few decades ago.

As one cosmetics manufacturer stated, “Until consumers decide they’re happy storing cosmetic products in the fridge, most companies will continue to use parabens while searching for preservatives without estrogenic qualities.”

My hopeful thoughts regarding the potential (and completely possible!) phase out of parabens and other dangerous chemical ingredients is that education is the first step. Upon educating ourselves about the detrimental effects of parabens, and can then refuse to purchase products containing parabens. As a result, companies will be forced to find superior alternatives! Safer preservatives exist and there are a handful of companies that don’t use any parabens at all to ward off gross microscopic critters. We don’t need parabens in our lives and it’s time to think of safer, nontoxic solutions! Who’s with me?!

To read even more about parabens, please CLICK HERE.

And finally, the most useful information is which companies use the most parabens in their products and which companies use the least, if any at all. So, without further ado, here you will find a list of the top paraben offenders and conversely, which products are safe!


Neutrogena, Revlon, Maybelline, Cover Girl, L’Oreal, Chanel, Lancome, Avon, Bobbi Brown, Clinique


Tarte, Josie Maran, Au Naturale, Ava Anderson, Physicians Formula, 100% Pure, Pacifica Beauty, Gabriel Cosmetics, Mineral Fusion, Dr. Hauschka

What cosmetics brand are you currently using? If it is a company on the top offenders list, there is no doubt in my mind that you will find a safer brand that you like just as much!

This is me wearing a bit of Au Naturale Cosmetics after getting my hair done at an Aveda salon (which happens rarely, maybe once every three months!).  ~>


I believe that the best service we can do for the health of our skin and to obtain a nice glow is eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods, especially leafy-green vegetables, and to make sure we consume enough healthy fat in the form of nuts, seeds and avocados. Just a few ounces or a small handful of nuts every day or every other day will do! I am also a huge believer in eating cooked mushrooms, onions, garlic and beans. For my recommendations of foods to eat for great skin, CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE. Once our diets are great for our bodies and our skin, then just a bit of makeup can enhance the clarity and beauty of our already healthy complexions.

I don’t wear makeup everyday as to give my skin a break, but when I do wear makeup, I don’t want any noxious ingredients like parabens! EWWW.

My investigation into the world of chemicals in cosmetics has only just begun and I look forward to sharing with you more of my research. It’s time to get smarter about our makeup and I hope you will join me on my search for toxin-free, high quality beauty products!


  1. AshYTim says:

    Great post, looking forward to future writing on this topic! :]

  2. kelsie walkeden says:

    Wow!! What an insightful article, but one that is truly needed! So many individuals are trying to focus on ‘going green’ or ‘being natural’ but solely the food they put IN their bodies, not by the products they put ON their bodies!
    Thank you for sharing,

  3. Tina Kirksey says:

    I am making the switch to Physican’s Formula, no more gross unhealthy makeup!!!
    Thanks for the information!

  4. Gabriela says:

    So what about those microbes and bacteria in paraben-free, all natural cosmetics? They are dangerous too, aren’t they? I’m confused.
    Thanks for sharing! x

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