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Parabens are synthetic preservatives often found in cosmetics and personal care products such as soap, moisturizers, shaving cream and deodorant. The most common types are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. The chemicals in parabens are similar to those that have industrial uses in solvents, de-icers, coolants, and lubricants. These ingredients are also carcinogens. Their are natural and other synthetic alternatives to Parbens using oils and extracts from plants, or more benign chemicals.

Oils, Vitamins and Herbs

Essential oils, extracts, vitamins and herbs are natural preservatives that ward off bacteria. They do not have the toxicity of synthetic preservatives, but they remain effective. They are meant to be used in the short term, though, by those who will use a product quickly. Most oils and extracts break down relatively rapidly and can only be used for the maximum of a year. A drawback to essential oils and vitamins is they must be used in large concentrations in order to preserve a product. This can be more expensive.

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate is found in products other than for personal care. It is an ingredient in salad dressing, jams, sauces and carbonated drinks. It is known as a preservative that is 100 percent natural, has no side effects, and is not expensive to produce. Sodium benzoate naturally occurs in fruits and roots in nature. Cranberries, prunes, greengage plums, cinnamon, cloves and apples all contain it.


Ethylhexylglycerin is a synthetic compound that comes from grains and plants. It breaks down the cellular walls of microorganisms, in effect killing them. Ethylhexylglycerin is known to be a safe alternative to parabens. It has the drawback of being a skin irritant as well. Two studies, one in Belgium by the Department of Dermatology at the University Hospital and a study in the Contact Dermatitis Journal have found a higher instance of skin irritation when using Ethylhexylglycerin.


Phenoxyethanol is derived from ether alcohol. It is a synthetic compound that has been accepted as an alternative to parabens, but with a little controversy. It is a potent preservative and not expensive to produce, but it is thought to contain carcinogenic chemicals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, has approved the compound as a food additive as well as for cosmetic application.