Are parabens on the way out?. While these synthetic preservatives — shunned by many environmental and health groups — are still far from extinct, an increasing number of cosmetics companies seem to be distancing themselves from the stuff.

In fact, at the Spa & Resort Expo & Conference in Los Angeles over the weekend, a good number of companies proudly declared that their lines were paraben-free. Even more emphasized that their products were cruelty-free, and about every other company pledged their allegiance to “natural” ingredients.

In fact, the Expo even boasted a “Green Spa” section, highlighting eco-friendly companies ranging from Rain Vodka (not exactly cosmetic, but perhaps a fitting beverage for a mani pedi party at an organic spa?) to Organic Spa Magazine to Explora Organics.

And one of the main sponsor companies, Pevonia Botanica, offered facials and hand treatments with their paraben-free products. During my hand treatment, the Pevonia aesthetician told me that her company had reformulated its products to do away with parabens and to include organic extracts — a very encouraging sign.

Of course, paraben-free doesn’t necessarily mean that the products are perfectly safe — which is why, once I got home, I checked up on Pevonia’s products on Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. All of Pevonia’s products ranked in the low to moderate risk categories except for one errant self-tanning “emulsion.”

Overall, that’s a good sign for Pevonia compared to many other conventional cosmetic lines — though not particularly great when compared to lines from more eco-dedicated companies. And unfortunately, not all of Pevonia’s products are in the Skin Deep database — especially not the ones intended for use in salons (vs. home use). Those salon products don’t have their full ingredient lists posted on Pevonia’s website either — so if you go in for a treatment at a salon that uses Pevonia products, you won’t quite know exactly what’s being put on your face, though whatever the stuff is, it’ll at least be paraben-free.

Then again, most companies say even less about what exactly their products contain. And some exhibitors at the Expo seemed to be selling downright scary stuff, from curiously speedy skin-bleaching products to suspicious eyelash growth promoting products to a whole myriad of products making vague promises of “fast results.” Suffice to say that the desperate desire for quick fixes and instant beauty — and the willingness to prey on the desparate to make a quick buck — are still far from gone.

And while more products making eco claims are coming on the market, would-be eco-beauties might actually have a harder time separating the green wheat from the chemical chaff. In a world where we have so many questionable chemicals and other ingredients to be wary of, the list of stuff to avoid seems to get longer, more unmanageable, and more difficult to remember every day. EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics is a good place to start, but I encourage everyone to use Skin Deep as a resource to evaluate individual products — and to stick to a product once you find a safe, eco-version you like so as to prevent future stress and headaches –

Image: Courtesy Spa & Resort Expo & Conference

Green beauty, complicated
More beauty product companies are going paraben-free. But are cosmetics really getting any safer?