With all this information, where do you start?

It’s a muddy world out there. Triclosan this, SSL that. But what does it all actually mean? After all, most things in our world are technically chemicals. So how do we tell which are the good and which are the – well - not so good. And how is it even possible that the ‘not so good’ end up in our products? Aren’t there regulations around these sort of things?

The answer to that is, yes. Regulations exist for most of those ‘not so good’ ingredients and that’s why only small amounts appear in products. But, when you apply multiple products to your skin, several times a day, those small amounts aren’t so small anymore.

In a recent survey, it was revealed that, on average, women apply 16 products onto their skin every day[1]! We could write an essay on each ingredient but for today, we’ll cover just one: parabens.

It’s a widely covered topic but what actually are parabens? How did they get into our daily life and what can we do to avoid them? Let’s dig in…


Collective Noun

A group of compounds used as preservatives in pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products as well as in the food industry[2]. Origin: 1950s: from para- + ( hydroxy)ben(zoic).

But what actually are parabens?

Para-hydroxybenzoic acids, or Parabens for short, are chemical compounds which are added to personal care products to preserve them. As the US Food & Drug Administration points out, this includes makeup, moisturisers, hair care products, shaving products, toothpaste and even personal lubricants amongst others. Parabens do this by preventing microbial growth in the product (meaning they stop a broad spectrum of microorganisms growing in the product) - which, in turn, dramatically extends the shelf life of the products.

So they do something good, right? Well, yes. In fact, the European Commission has put together an entire infographic on preservatives (which include parabens)[3].  But as we all know many health experts (and governments) have raised some concerns over its effect on our health. 

We know why it’s good because the European Commission made us a handy little infographic about why we should all be rejoicing over preservatives.

So, what about the bad rep?


What this infographic doesn’t tell you is that the use of some of these preservatives - like parabens - are restricted by law.

Why? Ask the government of Denmark. They banned propylparaben and butylparaben, their isoforms and their salts in all personal care products for children under three because they recognised the potential of parabens to disrupt endocrine activity and were the first in Europe to do it.[4] 

In fact, some parabens are even banned for use in Personal Care products by the European Commission[5]. Most others are heavily restricted (meaning that there is a legal limit on how much of it you can add to a product)[6] For completeness, it should be noted that the official reason for the ban was “due to the lack of data necessary for reassessment[7], but in my experience as a former lawyer, I am yet to see any democratic government go to the effort of passing legislation to ban or restrict a chemical compound just for kicks and giggles. There is always a public interest reason behind it. It just doesn’t make logical sense to just ban or restrict something due to “lack of data” only, but that’s just my opinion.

Whether or not you agree that there may be health concerns associated with parabens, the problem is, there is no way for the average person to look at the label of a personal care product and find out whether the product does or doesn’t contain this type of preservative.

In that respect, even if you did care, there is no simple way to give parabens the side-step and we have a problem with that. We are not saying buy products with parabens or don’t - we are saying that as consumers, we are entitled to all the information before we purchase a product with parabens or without.

SkinNinja was created to unearth these ingredients and hand back the power to you, the consumer, because we believe that the information that many companies and experts already know, should be freely available and easily accessible to everyone, so you can decide for yourself what’s right for you and your family.

For some, these ingredients aren’t a concern. However, for those of us with chronic health conditions or who just want to know what it is that are in their products, we help you understand what’s going on and how you can make informed decisions on your skincare and health regime.

There are alternatives out there and if you’d like to find out more visit us on Wednesday 18th October at the Women’s Environmental Network, where we can introduce you to some of these concerns and provide some helpful tips on avoiding certain ingredients.

To Discover, Learn & Switch your skincare products, SkinNinja is available to download now on the app stores and for more information, visit: 





[1] http://www.skinstore.com/blog/skincare/womens-face-worth-survey-2017/

[2] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/paraben

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/docs/infograph_preservatives_en.pdf

[4] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2014.107.01.0005.01.ENG

[5] Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Phenylparaben, Benzylparaben and Pentylparabe were all banned by Commission Regulation (EU) No 358/2014 . Although, the official reason for the ban states that it was “due to lack of data necessary for reassessment).

[6] http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/cosing/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.results see for example row 12 of this table.

[7] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-1051_en.htm