What are parabens and how do you recognise them?
Parabens is a collective name for a number of chemical substances. They are preservatives that ensure that your hair products do not spoil as quickly. They kill fungi before they have a chance to spread and damage our products. They therefore ensure that care products have a longer shelf life and do not spoil on the store shelves or immediately after opening. Pretty nice, you would say.
On the labels of hair products you can pick out parabens in no time, because they end in ‘-parabens’. These are the most common:
- Ethyl parabens
- Butyl parabens
Sometimes other names are used, but they are also easy to recognise because they end in “paraben”. Also good to know: there are usually several parabens in a product. The amount depends on the product. For example, a bottle with a spray cap contains less parabens than a jar of gel. This is because a bottle is much more hygienic than a jar, where you take the product out with your hands.
Why is this ingredient bad for your hair and scalp?
You can compare parabens with sulphates, only a little less aggressive. Yet they also dry out your hair and can cause frizz, irritation and itching. That is why parabens are not recommended within the Curly Girl Method.
In addition, parabens contained in care products can enter your body through your skin. Studies have shown that many types of parabens mimic the effects of estrogen, which can cause hormonal imbalances. And that may be linked to breast cancer, premature puberty and a decline in fertility. Yet no direct link between parabens and breast cancer has ever been found. But, despite the fact that parabens have been used in many products for a long time, little research has been done into possible negative effects.
Despite that, Denmark, Sweden and France have taken legal steps to ban certain parabens and to inform vulnerable populations about this. This is not the case in the Netherlands: they think it is too early for measures because the link between hormone-disrupting substances, including parabens, and a greater risk of breast cancer has not yet been proven.
So it remains unclear, as opinions about parabens differ. But since they don’t do any good for your hair either, that’s reason enough to avoid them. Although you can of course determine that yourself.
Products without parabens
You now know what parabens are and how to recognize them in hair products. But which products are left, given that more than 75% of the care products contain parabens? Don’t worry, fortunately there are also many products for sale that do not contain parabens. These products contain other ingredients to keep a product last longer, without the harmful side effects of parabens. Think of organic acids, such as diazolidinyl urea, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Alcohol can also be used as a preservative, but it is not suitable for all care products due to the concentration required for this. Natural alternatives to parabens include vitamin E and tea tree oil.
We’ll get you started with a list of brands that sell paraben-free shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, hair gels, hairspray, hair masks and other hair products that are suitable. Fortunately, you do not always have to go to an expensive hairdresser, because most of these products are available at Kruidvat, Etos, Action and De Tuinen – now Holland & Barrett.
- Dr Bronners
- Dr Organic
- Less is More
- Love Beauty and the Planet
- L’Oréal Botanicals
- Petal Fresh
- Pure Nuff stuff
- Shea Moisture
- Yes to..
And all products at Holland & Barrett are free of parabens. Also handy: nowadays it is often stated on the packaging if it is paraben-free. That saves you a few minutes staring at the packaging. 😉 Remember that if there are fewer chemicals in a product like shampoo, it will foam less. But the effect remains the same. You don’t have to use it anymore to achieve the same effect as before.
Also read: This is how you determine which CG hair products suit your curls
Do you still use hair products that contain parabens, or is that a thing of the past from now on? And, if you have any questions about it, feel free to ask them via Instagram! We are happy to help you.