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What Are Parabens In Shampoo? Should You Avoid Them?

a worker shampooing a customers hair

Shampoo is essential for cleansing the hair as well as the scalp, and it works to remove excess oil and product build-up. This isn’t just important for the appearance of the hair, since a clean scalp also helps ensure the hair follicles can do their jobs (which is to produce strong, healthy hair).

In order to be effective, shampoos are generally formulated with several key ingredients. First and foremost is a cleansing agent (also known as a surfactant) that creates foam or lather to help loosen impurities so they can be easily washed away. Most shampoos also contain hair-nourishing ingredients that help restore moisture.

All shampoos—whether traditional or labeled as natural, organic, “clean,” etc.—contain preservatives. There are many different preservative ingredients that can be used to help maintain their integrity and enhance their shelf-life. On one hand, preservatives help prevent formulas from “going bad.” More importantly, preservatives help minimize the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mold that can potentially harm the skin or overall health. Considering that the hot, humid environment of your shower is the ideal environment for microbial growth, you want and need preservatives in your shampoo.

However, all preservatives are not created equal. In fact, there are a few that have come under scrutiny in recent years. One example is formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, which slowly release carcinogenic compounds over time—so be mindful of those expiration dates. Another preservative that has come into question is parabens. (You won’t find either of these ingredients in SEEN.)

What are parabens?

Parabens are a family of chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Parabens are often used in combination with other types of preservatives to better protect against a broad range of microorganisms. The most common parabens you’ll see on ingredient lists are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.

The concerns surrounding parabens have to do with their potential to mimic the effects of naturally-occurring estrogen hormones. To err on the side of caution, SEEN is free of parabens.


Should you switch to paraben-free shampoo?

Honestly, making the decision to steer clear of parabens is up to you. The U.S. FDA has deemed them safe for use as preservatives in cosmetic products (which includes haircare, skincare, and makeup). Conversely, the E.U. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have placed restrictions on parabens. It really depends on just how “clean” you want your personal-care products to be.


SEEN’s take on parabens in shampoo

Our founder, Harvard-trained dermatologist Dr. Iris Rubin, created SEEN to provide haircare and skincare products that are clean, effective, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), and safe for sensitive skin. Parabens were off the table from the very beginning due to potential concerns about their impact on reproductive and overall health.

Instead, SEEN uses a combination of phenoxyethanol and ethylhexylglycerin as preservatives. Although these ingredients may be difficult to pronounce, they are considered “safe synthetics” that help maintain the integrity and purity of your SEEN Shampoo until you finish the very last drop.

SEEN has a long-standing commitment to providing effective products that won’t interfere with our customers’ overall health or the health of their skin (since the two go hand-in-hand). Dr. Rubin’s intense ingredient scrutiny during the formulation process has resulted in a full range of clean, vegan haircare and skincare products that are safe for sensitive skin and will not clog pores. We’re here to deliver gorgeous hair and healthy skin today, without the worry of potential health concerns down the line.