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Today, we’re more aware than ever about how important it is to look after our skin and make sure the products we use are free from harmful chemicals.
Parabens have been under the spotlight for nearly two decades as people question whether they pose a risk to our health or not.
But are parabens bad for you? We have got stuck into the research for you to find out whether you should keep or ditch the parabens in your products.
P.S. All of our products here at H&B are 100% paraben, microbead and SLS free, just in case!
Many of the skin care products available to buy contain parabens – so, it is likely you are being exposed to them daily.
They are a chemical compound of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and have been used for over eighty years as a preservative.
We need to use preservatives in most skincare and beauty products to keep them fresher for longer.
Many people use skin creams and lotions every day, dipping our fingers into them and allowing germs from our hands to get into the pots where they can easily multiply. Pair that with a high water content and warm bathroom storage and products would quickly turn bad if it wasn’t for preservatives.
You will usually find parabens in the following products:
However, you can get paraben-free products that contain a different preservative – including natural preservatives like:
Parabens are also used in glues, oils, soft drinks, sauces, processed meat and hundreds of other everyday products.
Parabens are extracted from para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA) that occurs naturally in lots of fruits and vegetables, including1:
Our own bodies also make PHBA by breaking down some amino acids.
Man-made parabens used in cosmetics are identical to those found in nature – out bodies change them into natural PHBA and eliminates them in the same way.
Parabens in cosmetics are in concentrations from around 0.3% to 1%. They are used to give items a longer shelf life.
As the use of parabens is so widespread, and a lot of them end up getting flushed down our drains, it is inevitable that they will trickle into the environment.
In fact, studies have shown that parabens have been found in urban streams, river and even drinking water sources. But as there are natural sources of parabens found in fruits and vegetables like carrots and blueberries, is this a bad thing?
Since relatively little is known about the effect parabens can have when released into the environment, there is no evidence that they are harmful to the environment.
Independent expert scientific panels have conducted safety assessments on different members of the paraben family several times and confirmed their safety. Only the specific parabens which have undergone a rigorous safety assessment are allowed to be used in the UK and the reason why some parabens have not been authorised for use in the UK is simply because they have not been investigated.
Regulatory authorities from around the world have independently reviewed parabens in cosmetics and found them to be safe. Organisations such as Cancer Research UK, the NHS and the American Cancer Society all state that a link cannot be made between parabens and the claimed concerns.2
To check if your favourite products contain parabens you should spend a couple of minutes reading the ingredient lists on their labels.
If you see the following on a product label, you will know that it contains parabens:
Sometimes other ingredient names are used but you can easily tell because they’ll end in ‘paraben’.
Whether you choose to buy skin care products that contain parabens is a call you alone have to make. In recent years there has been a growing demand for cosmetics and skincare that don’t contain these ingredients.
Holland & Barrett offers the largest range of products to ensure that there is sufficient variety in order to meet different consumers needs and demands
Here are some products that don’t use parabens in their formulation.
Microbeads have been a hot topic in the press with the ban of them in all toiletries for 2018 due to the concern of them entering our oceans and harming our delicate ecosystems. We banned them from all H&B products for this exact reason.
Handpicked content: What are microbeads?
Like parabens, SLS is also used in many cosmetic products, such as soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpaste. SLS stands for sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and is a substance, like a detergent, which enables a liquid to foam.
Handpicked content: What is SLS?
Last updated: 18 March 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: Mar 2019
BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science
After completing her BSc in Biomedical Science, Doaa worked in Research and laboratory for 3 years. Doaa was also a member of a product development team in a manufacturing company specialising in sun care and personal care products, researching and providing regulatory advice regarding international regulations.