Parabens - cause for worry: Part 2

Yo! We are back to complete our quick, pragmatic, science-based look at parabens, something we started in Part 1 of this post. Story so far: there's some evidence, but not enough to prove parabens guilty beyond doubt, but a "better safe than sorry" approach would mean that we avoid parabens. So, are paraben-free cosmetics always safe, and how can you choose safer products?


We set out to evaluate parabens by asking these questions:

1. What are parabens, why are they used?
2. Are parabens bad? Is the danger real?
3. Should I avoid parabens?
4. Are paraben-free cosmetics always safe?
5. How can I choose safer products?

We covered the first three questions in Part 1 of this post, we urge you to read it if you haven't done so already. We will answer the last two questions today.

Are paraben-free cosmetics always safe?

Two quick points here:
  1. It's tough for cosmetics to be preservative-free, unless you follow extremely restrictive formulationsSo something's got to replace parabens. And chemists have been working overtime to find solutions.
  2. New preservatives have to be safe on two counts:
    • They have to be safe chemicals
    • They have to effectively kill microbes in the formulation, giving it the shelf-life and PAO (what's PAO?) that we desire.
Without getting too detailed, here's an illustrative list of what can go wrong while trying to be paraben-free:
  1. Formula restrictions: Some preservatives work only in specified pH ranges, some are ineffective beyond a certain temperature, some others are incompatible with other parts of the formula. If chemists choose the wrong preservative for the formulation, you have an unsafe product in your hands
  2. Formaldehyde releasers: Some preservatives (e.g., diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin) work by releasing formaldehyde in the formulation. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen - highly avoidable! Interested readers can read this article on formaldehyde from the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, US 
  3. Toxic preservatives: Some paraben-substitutes are themselves quite toxic. Example: Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate is toxic by inhalation and should not be used in aerosols and sprays
In short, paraben-free does not automatically mean safe.

How can I choose safer products?

We have to admit it's not easy, but here are 3 quick tips:
  1. Choose brands that care about safety and environmental impact of their products. Read the back-of-pack carefully to see what the brand has to say, if at all :-|
  2. Look for what's replacing the parabens, and use a dependable, objective service like Cosmetic Ingredient Review or EWG's Skin Deep to see if what's in your cosmetic is safe. 
  3. You can ask us, too, but do be aware that we have our own range of products coming up. We promise to be independent and objective in what we say, as we are being here on this blog.

Got more questions? Have more to add? 

Do let us know how we are doing, and if something we said isn't making sense - we're all ears! You can use the contact form or simply send us an email at 
Is there a topic/discussion you would like us to cover on this blog? Do let us know!
Till then, stay safe, Be Good! 

About Plum

Plum GoodnessInspired by global best practices in safe natural cosmetics and beauty solutions, Plum is an exclusive, online-only beauty brand. At Plum, we bring together science and product expertise in a harmonious blend. And we give back to nature as much as we take. Designed in London and in the EU, all Plum products are 100% vegan and free of Parabens, DEP, DBP, Propylene Glycol, SLS, PABA, DEA and other harmful chemicals. Plum is available directly from Click here to explore our product range.


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