Ingredient of the Week: What are Parabens?

parabens in beauty products - What is Parabens? by popular Chicago beauty blogger Visions of Vogue

This is the second post in my new Ingredient of the Week series and I’m so excited to talk about parabens today! These are some of the most common toxic chemicals found in almost every single beauty or personal care product. If you are health focused and love beauty products, make sure to keep following along with this series to find out what’s in your products!


If you missed last week’s intro to this series, definitely give it a read. It explains why I started this series, what “safe beauty” is, and why it’s important. The quick version is that the FDA doesn’t regulate what chemicals brands put in their products and it doesn’t set standards for words like “natural” or “organic”. Basically, a brand could put “natural” on a container full of carcinogens if they wanted (and they often do). What I found out this week was the “natural” deodorant everyone told me I needed to try (Native) is actually not safe and contains a few toxic chemicals itself. It’s hard to find stuff like this out though without a ton of research so that’s where I come in.


So let’s kick off this weeks post with one of the things I see most commonly on every single kind of beauty product: parabens.

What to look for. 

Parabens are relatively easy to scan for on the back of the box – you have to look for any word that ends in “paraben”. Typically they’re longer words and they can have a bunch of different prefixes. Here are some of the common ones.





Propylparaben (commonly found in food)

Just know that any ingredient that has “paraben” in it is not doing you any favors.

What are they?

Parabens are preservatives. They prevent products from growing bacteria and mold.

Why do brands still use them? 

Simply put, they extend the shelf life of a product. The longer a product lasts, the less likely a brand will have to replace it or scrap expired inventory. Parabens are also really cheap. Seeing a theme here yet? Brands use cheap chemicals so they can get the price of their products down since most customers are driven by price. The lower the price, the better chance someone will buy it. Little do they know the product they are buying is actually causing them harm (and signing them up for a a few hospital bills in the future).

What products usually contain parabens?

Literally, everything. I’ve seen these in night creams, hair products, lipsticks, and eyeshadow palettes. Fortunately, quite a few brands have preemptively started removing them from their products which is why you often see this called out when you browse the Sephora website. You can usually find this on the “Details” tab at the bottom after clicking on a product.

What they do to you.

Endocrine disruption. Parabens disrupt your hormones (they mimic estrogen). Your endocrine system is the collection of glands that produce hormones to regulate metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, sleep, mood, etc. Any disruption to that process can alter the long list of things that your endocrine system is responsible for. Ever wonder why women (and men) seem to have more reproductive issues now than they did 50 years ago? What about the number of people with sleep disorders? Or thyroid issues? While this isn’t the cause in all cases, it’s 100% a contributing factor. Cleaning up your medicine cabinet can affect your health in many ways. As I talked about last week, it’s not the use of one tube or one product that causes life-threatening harm. It’s the use of products over the course of your lifetime that builds up and contributes to health issues later in life (or even sooner).

Potential link to cancer. Like most of this safe beauty world, a lot more research needs to be done. It’s hard to find companies willing to fund the research because most big brands want the opposite. They actually don’t want the research done so they can keep manufacturing their products at a low cost… and make a larger profit. All that we know is that scientists have found parabens inside breast tumor tissue. I’m not about to take a risk especially when so many companies are pre-emptively removing parabens from their products. Something tells me, someone somewhere knows there’s a link.

Allergies. Parabens are also known to cause food allergies.

Some safe alternatives. 

If you’re not following me on Instagram, I often share my favorite non-toxic products on Instagram Stories so that is a great place to start for random, everyday products. When it comes to skincare and makeup, check out this page for my top 15 products from Beautycounter (the only brand I 100% trust). You can also browse my safe beauty posts for all the times I’ve talked about non-toxic products.

Have you found parabens in your products? Do you have any non-toxic favorites? Please share!

9 thoughts on “Ingredient of the Week: What are Parabens?

  1. So thanks to you i am currently using schimdts lavender & sage and so far I like it. The wonderful scent lasts all day so far!! Waiting for the summer to really put it to the test lol…thanks for sharing!

  2. Will you be doing an article on peptides? I would like to know what they are and if they are harmful.

  3. I have a friend selling Nerium products. So far I have resisted the pressure to buy them. What do you think of them?

    1. They aren’t 100% safe if that’s what you’re looking for! I just scanned a few products and things like fragrance, dimethicone, PEGs, phenoxyethanol, etc. I probably wouldn’t use it on myself for an extended period of time!

  4. I’ve seen Regenere products on the Dr Oz show and also promoted by Hollywood actresses as an alternative to Botox. Any thoughts?

  5. So glad you started this series! It’s such helpful info! Question- I haven’t tried Native yet, but what are the toxic chemicals in it? I know it’s paraben and aluminum free, so I’m curious about the other ingredients. Thanks Jenna!

    1. Hey girl! It contains fragrance (in some scents) – it’s not necessarily toxic but it can be. It depends on what the brand puts in “fragrance”. Phenoxyethanol is another one I found in one scent. Both chemicals tend to irritate your skin – if they don’t then that’s great!

Let me know what you think!