How Parabens in Your Beauty Products Actually Affect Your Health

Unless you actively avoid them, you might be using beauty products with parabens on your face, body, and hair. But what are parabens, exactly, and why are they controversial?

Simply put, parabens are preservatives that keep cosmetics from growing bacteria. This helps boost product shelf life so our hard-earned money won't go down the drain after just a few weeks or months. Parabens are found in makeup, like foundations and lipsticks, and other products like sunscreens, lotions, shampoos and conditioners, body wash, shaving products, and pretty much anything else that contains water. Most parabens are listed on the ingredients labels with names that start with methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, or ethyl-.

So what's the problem? Even though the FDA has deemed the use of parabens as safe in cosmetics, there have been conflicting studies on whether they can disrupt regular hormone function or how far the ingredient can actually penetrate our skin. Back in 2014, the European Union banned five types of parabens from all cosmetics.

It's best to exercise caution if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Luckily, there are tons of paraben-free beauty products on the market today (including our very own Beauty by POPSUGAR).

Now that you have a better idea of what parabens are, watch the latest episode of POPSUGAR's latest beauty explainer series, The Makeup, for more DL on parabens and some paraben-free product recommendations from resident beauty expert Kirbie Johnson.