What are Parabens in Shampoo and Should I Switch to a Paraben-Free Shampoo?

photo of a shampoo bottle and conditioner bottle with overlay text stating, "What are parabens in shampoo?"

Have you ever thought about all the icky ingredients that are in your shampoos? 

Up until the ripe age of 20 or so, I never once thought about what was truly in my shampoo, let alone my other skin and hair care products.

For years, I’d simply read the very gimmicky and descriptive words on the front of a shampoo bottle – like “hydrating” and “healthy” – and think it was good for my scalp, hair, and skin. 

As you can see, I fell hard for these sneaky marketing tactics. Pfft, healthy shampoo? Yeah, right! After doing the research, I found out all the nasty things that are hiding in hair and skin care bottles. 

For instance, sulfates? Yuck! In another blog post, I covered what sulfates are (aka sodium lauryl sulfate) and why it’s beneficial to switch to a sulfate-free shampoo.

For a couple years now I’ve been aware of how sulfates can negatively impact hair and skin, and have gone out of my way to avoid them like the plague. 

But parabens? They didn’t cross my mind until a few months ago. 

So, like the good little skincare lover that I am, I started looking into what parabens are and why they’re in shampoos… and what I’ve uncovered is truly shocking.

(Psst, after reading the ghastly information below, you’ll no doubt want to switch to a paraben-free shampoo, too!) 

What are Parabens? 

young woman washing her hair in the shower with paraben-free shampoo; overlay text states, "What are Parabens?"

Parabens are a class of chemicals that act as a preservative to prevent the growth of fungus, bacteria, microbes, and other unwanted microorganisms. 

Ultimately, parabens are used to prolong a product’s shelf life – and you’ll find them in basically everything. From shampoo and conditioners to deodorants and lipsticks, parabens are in thousands of cosmetics and personal care products. 

There are many different types of parabens, but butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben and isobutylparaben are the most common ones you’ll find in pharmaceutical, personal care, and beauty products. 

Why are Parabens Harmful? 

girl laying on the floor with shampoo and conditioner bottles around her head; text overlay states, "Why are parabens harmful?"

1. Parabens have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body. 

This can seriously disrupt the normal functions of the hormonal system, impacting both male and female reproductive systems, reproductive development, fertility and birth outcomes. 

2. Parabens may trigger acne and painful breakouts. 

Do you struggle to get your acne under control? Or find yourself stuck with painful breakouts on a regular basis? It might be best to ditch your shampoo with parabens! 

Considering parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen and interrupt hormone function, this may potentially boost oil production, which clogs pores and increases the chances for a nasty breakout.

(Hint: avoiding parabens is one of the top ways to avoid acne!) 

3. Parabens can potentially disrupt the endocrine system

What is an endocrine disruptor? 

Simply put, it is a chemical that may possibly have adverse effects in humans, including developmental malformations, interference with reproduction, increased cancer risk, and disturbances in the immune and nervous system function. 

4. Parabens are harmful to wildlife. 

Did you know parabens are linked to ecological harm

Low levels of parabens -- specifically butylparaben -- can kill coral. And we all know that most of our water (which contains these harmful chemicals) often ends up in the ocean! 

Even worse, parabens have been showing up in the tissues of marine mammals, including dolphins, sea otters, and polar bears. When products, such as shampoos and conditioners, contain parabens, they wash into the sewage system and are often released into the environment. How gross is that? 

5. Parabens can cause allergic reactions and exacerbate some skin conditions. 

If you have sensitive skin or suffer from a skin condition like dermatitis or eczema, it might be in your best interest to switch to a paraben-free shampoo. Parabens can often exacerbate symptoms, further irritating patches of dry, itchy skin or instigating a painful flare-up. 

Should You Switch to a Paraben-Free Shampoo? 

two bottles of TEENOLOGY hair care; sulfate- and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner.

In my humble opinion? I think everyone should switch to a paraben-free shampoo. 

As an environmentalist who struggles with acne, switching to a paraben-free shampoo has helped me do better for the earth and improved my skin, as I’m no longer bombarding my body with an estrogen-mimicking chemical. 

If you’re someone who has sensitive skin or struggles to get your acne under control, switching to a paraben-free shampoo may help give your skin some must-needed relief. 

Additionally, if you’re a consumer who cares about the environment, a paraben-free shampoo can reduce the amount of chemicals put into the ocean. How great does that sound? 

If you’re ready to make the switch to paraben-free shampoo, I recommend giving TEENOLOGY a try (even if you’re an adult, like me!). 

TEENOLOGY creates premium shampoo that’s not only free of parabens, but also sulfates and pore-clogging oils.

They formulate shampoos, conditioners, and skin care products that are made with only the highest-quality ingredients – like aloe vera and natural botanical extracts – that truly benefit the hair, skin, and senses. 

Try out TEENOLOGY Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash, and make the switch to paraben-free hair and body care products today! 

Here’s to healthy hair and happy skin!