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'Paraben-Free': What Does it Mean?

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Whether perusing the beauty and personal care products at Target or Whole Foods or shopping online at Sephora, consumers are increasingly encountering the phrase "paraben-free."

What exactly does paraben-free mean, and why might it matter? We take a closer look - including sussing out pretty makeup products that are paraben-free.

What are parabens?

Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products such as soap, moisturizers, shaving cream and underarm deodorant, according to the Food and Drug Administration. To get a bit science-y, parabens are esters (a compound formed from acid and alcohol) of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. The FDA says the most common are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Companies use parabens to extend the shelf life of products and prevent growth of bacteria and fungi in, for instance, face cream. And that's good, right? Mold is essential to blue cheese, but who wants to smear her face with it?


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