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What Are Parabens and Sulphates

What Are Parabens and Sulphates

Parabens and sulphates are chemicals found in most beauty products. They both perform very different functions. Although they have been in use since the 1950’s in skincare and haircare products newer studies have raised some concerns about them.


Parabens are a group of preservatives used in skincare and haircare products. Most products have a “shelf life” - this basically means the amount of time that they can be kept as fresh as possible and without any bacterial or fungal contamination. Chemists incorporate various preservatives in order to do this. Parabens are chemicals that have been used to prevent bacteria and to act as a preservative in lotions, lipsticks, shampoos, cleansers etc.


Sulfates are surfactants i.e. cleansing and foaming agents that create lather to help cleanse your skin and hair. If you have a face wash or shampoo that lathers easily by just adding a little bit of water then chances are it has sulfates in it. Sulfates can be found in cleansers, shampoo, body washes and toothpaste among many other products.


Both parabens and sulphates have been shown to be capable of penetrating the skin’s barrier and entering our bodies.

There have been no conclusive studies proving a direct link between parabens and cancer. They have however been shown to be endocrine disruptors which can be a cause of reproductive and developmental issues.

Marine researchers have also seen a link between damaged coral reefs and parabens used in sunscreen products.

Sulphates have been shown to strip hair and skin of natural oils, making them brittle, dry and damaged. They can also cause scalp issues like dryness, itching, and irritation. If you colour your hair you will notice that switching to a sulphate free shampoo keeps your hair colour looking good for a longer period of time.


If you wish to protect your skin and hair from exposure to parabens and sulphates in your beauty products, here are a few things you can do.


  • To become a wiser consumer start reading the labels of the products you buy
  • Parabens are listed as methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben, or butylparaben on ingredient lists. They can also be listed as alkyl parahydroxy benzoate
  • Sulphates are listed as sodium lauryl sulphate, ammonium lauryl sulphate, lauroyl isethionate and sodium laureth sulphate.


Skincare brands that believe in safe formulations will not use parabens and sulphates in the products they make. They will also mention this on their website on or on their product labels.

Vya Naturals products have been formulated to be free of parabens and sulphates, along with other chemicals for which we believe safer alternatives exist. This has been the cornerstone of our brand philosophy.


While several studies have been conducted by researchers, there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence that effectively links parabens to cancer or other such side effects.

Sulphates as well have been permitted as cleansing agents provided they are well rinsed off your skin and hair.

However if you wish to follow a “safer rather than sorry” route then looking for products formulated without these two ingredients is the best way to go.

Luckily there are several options available for discerning and well informed consumers. Responsible brands use safer alternatives available as preservatives and as foaming/ cleansing agents.

Kavita Joshi Rai

Co-founder & Product Head at Vya Naturals, Kavita is a product development expert and self confessed skincare and beauty specialist. Her aim is to help consumers cut through the clutter of the retail world to find products that really work for them. In the past, Kavita has worked with brands like Nike, L'oreal, Kama, Kiehl's Clarins etc.

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