How to Avoid Parabens

Read the labels on your toiletries to search for parabens.
Read the labels on your toiletries to search for parabens. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Parabens are preservatives found in between 75 to 90 percent of commercial cosmetic products. They are often the second-most common ingredient, after water, in items such as shampoo and moisturizer. Parabens are controversial because many studies have shown them to have severe health risks. Prolonged exposure to parabens can lead to breast cancer and stunt the development of babies, for example. You can eliminate your exposure to parabens by getting familiar with the products in which they're found and being vigilant about reading labels.

Recognize the different names of parabens. A bottle of shampoo won't list "paraben" as an ingredient, so it's important to know the names of substances that fall under the category of paraben. Any ingredient containing the words "ethyl," "butyl," "methyl" and "propyl" is a paraben, although the word will appear as a prefix or suffix in a longer word — for example, "cocamidopropyl" or "methylisothiazolinone."

Learn the products in which parabens typically appear. Knowledge is your best weapon against parabens; if you aren't aware of where they're found, you may inadvertently expose yourself to them. Products containing parabens include shampoo, deodorant, cleansers, nail products, cosmetics, toothpaste, soap and moisturizers.

Read the labels of all the cosmetic and toiletry products you typically buy to learn which contain parabens. If you find a paraben in the ingredients list of one of your products, and you wish to stop your intake of parabens, dispose of the product.

Shop at health food or natural food stores that sell toiletries and personal care products. Read the ingredients of every product you plan to buy, and begin replacing your supply of paraben-containing products with ones which are paraben-free. Because parabens are a controversial ingredient, many alternative cosmetics companies highlight the fact that their products are paraben free on the front of packages.

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