Question of the Day: Parabens and Other “Iffy” Ingredients

Q: What is your take on parabens? The conditoner by Paul Mitchell has two, methyl and propyl paraben listed as the last two ingredients…

A. Short answer? I don’t give two licks about parabens. Long answer? I don’t care about parabens – now, when I first BC’ed, I certainly did care about them, because that is an ingredient group that I thought that “as a natural” that was something that “we” didn’t use. The concern with parabens is that they can cause cancer. You read that, and you’re like OH NO! NO MORE PARABENS IN MY CONDITIONER EVER!! Thankfully, I’ve learned to think for myself since then (not saying that everyone who does not use parabens doesn’t think on their own, gimme a second). And to be totally frank, I give a little chuckle when people go on tirades about parabens, then run to a fast food joint for lunch (normally I attempt to avoid shade, but hey, it’s my blog, and you asked).

Why? Because parabens are found in a TON of stuff – food additives, makeup, toothpaste – just to name a few. So unless I monitor everything I use daily and eat it’s not worth it to be weary of them in my hair products, especially when most of these products should not be applied to my scalp anyway (the logic was that hair products with parabens can potentially absorb into the scalp and may cause cancer). My hair is dead, my hair can’t get cancer from parabens.

I feel the same way about most ingredients we should fear as well, like DMDM Hydantoin, which I’ve mentioned before. And don’t even get me started on industry fear mongering and how just about EVERYTHING gives us cancer nowadays. I feel like I need to walk around with a gas mask on (and that’d just be strange, and I don’t think one can fit over my hair anyway).

If you don’t agree and you don’t want to use them, I’m totally cool with it. But don’t avoid something just because someone told you it was “bad.” And don’t use them just because I said I didn’t care and don’t mind them. Do your own research, use common sense, and draw your own conclusions.

22 comments

  1. I personally think there is a cumulative effect. So I personally do not want parabens, aluminum, and other possibly cancer causing chemicals in my hair care, skin care, and dental care products. It is worth checking the ingredients. I definitely do not want to eat them – so I eat very little processed foods. However, I agree do your own research and make your own opinions.

  2. I actually work at not using parabens in my products. Other ingredients I don’t worry about as much though. I am seeing now that more products aren’t using parabens anymore and I think that’s good. Check out my site if you get a chance. I have a natural hair blog as well :).

  3. Really like this article! 😀
    And yes, as a newbie almost 3yrs ago, I too didn’t want all the chems and ”stuff” on my ”chemical free” scalp and hair.
    Has that changed over the years for me? A little.
    As a creature of habit I tend to purchase the same things that I like ie: ingredients/chemicals. And as long as my hair and nostrils like a certain product, I’m going to continue purchasing and using what I want. 🙂

      1. Great post. I’m totally the same. I avoid some ingredients purely for I guess you could say cosmetic reasons (e.g. mineral oil because of how it makes my hair feel, and silicones, because they literally just make water bounce off my hair). But I remember when I began this “healthy hair journey” and there was an uproar on NC.com about Taliah Waajid including Propylene Glycol in its products. I was up in arms and boycotted them, until one day when I was baking red velvet cupcakes and happened to read the ingredients of the food colouring. Yup, propylene glycol was the main one. I generally eat healthily, but allow myself a slip up once in a while, so now have the same philosophy with my hair. I realised I was being hypocritical (and that it was a futile exercise) fretting about what goes on my head but not in my body.

        Ok this has fast turned into an essay, but the reason I replied to this comment was how does one avoid phthalates? Apart from consciously not picking fragrance oils that contain them, and only sticking to a (quite limited) list of products, how?? They are everywhere! (Not a rhetorical question, I genuinely want to know the answer as this is something that worries me greatly)

      2. Honestly, the best thing I can do is not buy FOs with them. I know they are usually in fragrance and a lot of the time products don’t say whether it contains them or not.

  4. I’m not a fan of parabens in my products but there’s just 1 I don’t think I’ll ever give up so I guess I’ll just keep that one and keep the rest moving. My staples are from the Aubrey Organics line so fortunately I don’t have to feel “torn”

  5. As a transitioning natural, I am learning a whole bunch about ingredients and their effect on hear. I’m just now getting to know about paraben so your post was very enlightening. I love when you said do your research, this is SO TRUE!! Thanks, Please check out my blog – discoveringnatural.blogspot.com

  6. Ditto —-> “I absolutely can’t stand people who think that natural should mean natural living.” It makes me ill when people try to define what natural should be for others. Do you boo and let me do me. Unless I ask, please refrain from telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing w/my hair.

  7. Just to clarify – I didn’t compare hair care to fast food because I think that if you care about your hair you should live an organic, healthy lifestyle – it’s because there are parabens in both food and hair products, so IMO it’s going to be a helluva lot worse to ingest parabens rather than apply them to your hair. Just wanted to make sure that got across, because I absolutely can’t stand people who think that natural should mean natural living. Although being healthy is important, it’s not out of pocket for people to be more concerned about something visible to the naked eye rather than your insides.

  8. Great post, Elle. It’s like these things go in waves and perhaps it’s b/c many of us are at similar points in our journey. I remember when just a few moments ago almost everyone was on the avoid this, avoid that, mix your own, only wear protective styles, etc. bandwagon. Now people are saying, on second thought you can do this, you can use that, why are you more concerned with hair than you are food, I’m going to wear my hair out i’ll just protect my ends, so on and so forth. Seems to be the evolution of the natural hair journey and if nothing else, what I’m learning is … it’s okay to change your mind because it’s YOUR hair;-).

  9. Thanks for all the great info and reviews. I value your opinion greatly and look forward to reading your blog.

  10. I was guilty of this kind of thinking a time ago. Great points. So true to research on your own.

    1. LOL! DSTPRL, see my comment. IMO, what’s good and what’s not is what YOU say is good or not for your hair. Yep, that’s story and I’m sticking to it;-).

  11. I guess I go back and forth on the issue. I try to avoid parabens if possible, but I don’t obsess about it. I do have some cosmetics that may have those ingredients, but I try to keep my skin care products more on the natural side since natural products tend to be better for my skin. I’ve had hormonal issues since puberty so I guess I have more of an intensive to keep certain ingredients away from my body, but its hard to do it 100% of a time in a chemical filled world.

    I haven’t had fast food in 13 years by the way. 🙂

  12. I was the same as you and probably most newly naturals when I bc’d. I didn’t want all the extra additives in my products and I was going to be a good little natural. 🙂
    Nearly three years later and I could really care less. Although, I like what I like and most of the products that I like are paraben free. Ces la vie.
    I for one am definitely that gal who enjoys fast food every now and again, lipsticks of every shade, and bright pretty colored laquer on my toes. 🙂

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