Paraben alert

The next time you go beauty shopping ask the beauty advisor about parabens .

Chances are she will not have been briefed on how to answer this question. I had this experience recently at two beauty counters.

I am not paranoid as I truly hope that FDA rules and alert consumer groups will have ensured that only safe amounts of permitted preservatives are found in brands.

There are some things we should watch out for if their levels go out of whack in products as they could be potentially harmful .

Parabens (added as preservatives)  pthalates (usually in packaging and in binding agents ) and heavy metals (lead, cadmium,arsenic) are the main culprits.

They are found in beauty products, in household cleaners, deodorants and are more ubiquitous than you think.

Parabens are preservatives and preservatives are needed for products to complete their journey from place of manufacture to your doorstep.

The alternative would be to have bacteria multiplying in bottles and that I assure you is totally unsafe.

The reason for concern is that there is a link tenuous though it may be between breast cancer, estrogen and endocrine imbalance  and parabens. Pthalates are linked to this too .

Beauty products work closest to the  skin and get directly absorbed  hence they are likely to cause more harm.

It is not conclusive but if companies spend millions of dollars on new product development they can spend a few million on developing safer preservatives.

Now thanks to consumer activism they are .

Sally Hansen and Opi changed their formulations to ensure their nail polishes no longer had formaldehyde ( also in the controversial Brazilian treatment) which is dangerous as it is a known carcinogen.

J&J by the way has been the worst offender in this as they have been using Formaldehyde  preservatives in their baby care line and have now under pressure decided to change it.

I read a report published by a Canadian environmental group and was surprised to see that cult brand Benefit’s Benetint lip gloss had way more than the permissible quantities of heavy  metals while Urban Decay’s lip gloss had the least

Body shop has two lines which are Ecocert certified hence paraben free- Nutriganics and Rainforest but their Cooca butter and Shea butter lotions and other products have parabens sometimes more than two or three.

I keep hearing from young consumers that Body Shop is wholly natural and organic. Do read the fine print next time.

For a ready reckoner anything with methyl, propyl, butyl, isoprpyl  as a prefix /suffix will indicate parabens.  Do go to for more on this .

I have to admit you may need a Phd in chemistry to decode this so that’s why we just have to trust brands to tell us the truth. And rap them on the knuckles if not.

According to an Environment Group report Dermablend is one of the safest foundation/concelaers with zero environemental toxins. It  is available in India

Jane Iredale available at Sepphora is another brand that gets the environmental groups clearance

Badger suncreen gets a clean chit in the sunscreen front ( another potentially controversial category) and is available at

I have read many of the international environmental groups reports but can’t seem to find a similar one for Indian products. I am hunting and hope to track it down

Meanwhile don’t be paranoid but make informed choices.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Mala says:

    Very interesting Geeta. Great reads.

  2. Priya says:

    My first solo shoot as a grown-up copywriter was ‘No More Tears’ for JnJ at Lowe. The irate mother of the bawling baby came this close to suing me for the lethal lather drip that made baby smart, and not in a good way. That was the beginning of the end for me. Then came Unilever’s cashcow FAL and all it’s variants(with zero differentiation), and the journey of horror picked up traction from then on. It’s one thing to bury your deadly ingredients in a long list of mumbo

    1. Priya says:

      Continued from earlier—
      It’s one thing to bury your deadly ingredients in a long list of formulation mumbo-jumbo, but quite another to make claims with weak or dismal substantiation from RnD! The issue is, the consumers include babies, daughters, sisters n wives of the manufacturers, don’t they? How does that work out? Anyhow, I love that you have simplified the gobbledygook for the consumer, and identified brands that steer clear of nasty business. And yeah, good luck with local brands… Know 2 cases of skin inflammation post Forest Essential use. (dermatologists seem to push Himalaya, not sure the reason is a fantastic fee or genuinely mild, natural and toxin-free formulation). Your opinion?

  3. geeta's list says:

    thanks priya for your passionate response. i will check Himalaya and let you know though herbal and natural labels do not necessarily mean organic or paraben free. re forest essentials i do know the brand is very particular so perhaps this was some allergic reaction -do you know the range which caused this ?i can check .

  4. rajeevrc says:

    Good to know, Sonal found a lipstick the other day which is a few yrs old and which is probably extinct from Lakme’s production facilities. Imagine the paraben content, now we know where it goes…

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