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    What's the deal with parabens when it comes to grooming products? Are they that bad? Should I avoid them?

    - Ryan, Seattle, WA


    Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used as preservatives by the cosmetic industry for the past seven decades to keep grimy substances like bacteria at bay. Highly effective and extremely affordable, they can be found in everything from shaving creams and moisturizers to toothpaste, shampoos and soaps.

    The general chemical structure of a paraben, para-hydroxybenzoate.

    The reason why parabens are so controversial is because they've been linked to cancer and other ailments like obesity and a lower sperm count. One study found that when parabens combine with the sun's rays, it can speed up the skin's aging process. While another study concluded that the chemicals themselves cause damage to our DNA which can kickstart certain cancers. And while recently, the Independent Cosmetics Ingredient Review (which the FDA cites) deemed that parabens are generally safe, there are other concerns. Because once you wash them off, there's evidence that they're bad for the planet—waste management facilities haven't found a simple way to filter them, which has led to the synthetic chemicals being found in fish and other sea life.

    Thankfully, if you want to avoid parabens in your products, it's getting easier and easier to do so. All-natural preservatives like grapefruit seed extract and potassium lactate have been found to protect products from bacteria growth. Of course, shopping for more natural grooming products isn't as easy as sticking to the organic produce section of the grocery store. Thankfully, sites like Dermstore offer "paraben-free" sections. And to get you started, here are a few of our favorites.



Parabens are usually easy to identify by name, such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben or benzylparaben.






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