Tips & Tutorials


Wanna learn more about the ingredients in your haircare or are the beauty buzzwords flyin’ over your head? Keep an eye out for our monthly feature Into It, discussing errything you need to know about beauty’s hottest ingredients. This month, we’re taking all about Parabens and whether you really need to buy into the Paraben Free Shampoo hype.

What are Parabens?

Parabens are the ingredients used in beauty products to elongate the shelf life. Instead of your moisturiser going off, a company will add parabens to the formulation as a preservative to make sure that you can use it for a longer time period and it will retain its original texture, perfume and capacity. Parabens are most commonly found in products with a high percentage of water, for example shampoo, however are not restricted to this alone.

Parabens can be found naturally. You can find them in foods such as honey, lemon and blueberries, so all the good stuff. However, when they’re added to our beauty regime it’s a bit different. Theoretically Parabens are great news: they stop bacteria growing in our products, meaning we’re less likely to fall ill as a result of using them. However, do we really want to add extra ingredients to make our makeup and skincare products last longer without considering the implications?

The ingredients you need to look out for are:

  • Butylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • And keep an eye out for anything else ending in -paraben

Why are Parabens “bad”?

As Parabens are preservatives added to your beauty products and these are duly applied to the skin, it makes sense for the Parabens to be absorbed into the body along with the rest of the ingredients in your beauty products. Not great.

A study in the UK (see Citations below) found that traces of five Parabens were found in the breast tissue of 19 out of 20 women. Although this doesn’t mean that anything bad will definitely happen to these women, it does mean that these ingredients have found their way into the women’s system and stayed around.

Parabens should be avoided where possible as these little particles are able to absorb in to the skin and mimic hormones leading to imbalances within the body… It is best to exclude them especially when there are so many great alternatives.

Hira, HQhair’s Pharmacist

Are Parabens bad for the environment?

The byproducts of beauty products containing Parabens may have an impact on animals in the ecosystem, thanks to the poor disposal of product. As Paraben-rich products are thrown away, Parabens enter the water and, in turn, are swallowed by animals. Much like when products are applied to your skin and are absorbed, swallowing water with Parabens means the ingredients enter body.

This seems to be affecting mainly marine animals, namely the Bottlenose Dolphin, however Parabens have also been found in Polar Bears as a result of them entering the water and associated ecosystem.

Should I avoid using Parabens?

As there’s no specific link between Parabens and illness, there’s nothing to say that you ought to avoid them in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

However, as technologies advance and new formulations are discovered, the need for Parabens is slowly declining. Manufacturers are slowly finding alternatives, meaning that there are plenty of Paraben-free options available, and plenty of them are on HQhair.

Of course, if you’re looking for Paraben-free shampoo and conditoners and skincare, keep an eye on the rest of the label as there may be other preserving nasties in there as an alternative. Just keep your eye on the ball (or, rather, the back of the bottle), to make sure you know exactly what you’re putting on your skin.

The Best Paraben-Free Shampoo, Conditioner, Skincare and Beauty Products

If you are gonna make the jump and opt for Paraben-free shampoo and other beauty products, then there’s no need to look elsewhere than HQhair. We’ve dropped some of our absolute faves below, that have been tried and tested by HQ staff.

Have you tried avoiding Parabens or heard of any must-have paraben-free products we need to try?

Tag us on Instagram @hqhair

Looking for more information? Read our guides to the best of beauty in our “into it” feature

Turmeric | Argan Oil | Salicylic Acid | Parabens | Biotin

Darbre PD, et al., Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors. Journal of Applied Toxicology, vol. 24, pp 5-13, 2004.




Writer and expert