Thursday, November 6, 2008Learning to read labels

The "Without Paraben" mention

© L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

As for the "Without preservative" wording, this mention is more and more often seen or the labels of our cosmetics. For a similar reason, we need some clues to be sure to understand its meaning. In fact, "without parabens" does not mean "without preservative", not even "without synthetic preservative", not even sometimes … "without any parabens"!  

Reading time
~ 2 minutes

Since Parabens have been fingered at (sometimes wrongfully, refer to the pertaining paper ), this mention is more and more often written on the labels of cosmetic products , and not only those claimed as natural of organic. This mention, which consumers like, is attractive and is now a good selling point. Nevertheless, its meaning may vary with the context.

Without Paraben=Without preservative

Some cosmetics are labelled as "Without Paraben" when their formula does not need any preservative to make them safe against bacteria and microbes. Right, this wording is not misleading; nevertheless, it is only an ad wording, and in no way a relevant piece of information for the consumer.

Without Parabens=With other preservatives

The consumer often links this assertion to a safe product, and understands it as a product without any synthetic preservative. This may be true, though it may be the opposite. It is then necessary to think of this assertion as it is only. Without Paraben means without any Paraben-like preservative , nothing else. That is why other preservatives , often synthetic, may be found in the product, with potentially irritating , allergenic or harmful effects more detrimental than Parabens ’. Catherine Rioux, who is the person responsible of cosmetics in the French DGCCRF (General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control) thinks that this mention may mislead consumers, and in no way gives them a full information. Did you already see a wording such as, "With preservatives other than Parabens"? …

Without Paraben=Without added Paraben

Here, no Paraben has been added to the formula to make it safe. Nevertheless, Parabens may be found in the product. How did it get in? Generally, one or several of the ingredients have Parabens in their formula as preservative … Parabens are then found in the finished product … in small quantities, yes, but there are Parabens . The fact is, the allegation then is false.

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