Regardless of where you lie in the paraben debate - do you/don't you - if you are in the 'don't want them in my products at all' group - you need to look further back than the original inci list on your product.
A product listed as paraben-free means that there are no parabens in that particular product. It does not mean that the source ingredients in that product were not preserved in parabens. In other words, companies can say that their product is paraben-free - but the source ingredients that make up that product may have been swimming in them for months, even years. If you are unsure, ask questions - and don't ask the counter staff/shop staff - ask Head Office.
If you want something that is absolutely paraben-free you may need to do more than look on the box - and if you want to be absolutely sure - you need to go certified organic . Not 'natural' - ORGANIC. There are a lot of brands out there calling themselves natural - (a product only has to have 6% of something (anything) natural in it to call itself natural) - very few walk the walk and talk the talk.
One of the few that do is The Organic Pharmacy. Margo and Francesco Marrone are two of the most passionate people I have met in the industry. They also get rid of any cliched ideas you may have about organic = dowdy, dull, frumpy and boring. There are no grey areas in The Organic Pharmacy. It's either in - or it's out. If you are concerned about what is in the products that we routinely put on our skin - check out TOP - for more info on their philosophy and background - visit their website - here. And if you haven't yet tried any of their products - start with the Carrot Butter Cleanser - phenomenal.
At the other end of the paraben scale is Liz Earle. Liz Earle Cosmetics actively and openly use parabens - and defend them in their literature (although they are noticeably missing from all of their newest products released - make of that what you will).
Where there are no grey areas with Liz Earle is in animal testing. So much so that a few years ago the EU revised the law on all self tanning products because they were concerned about the effects of inhalation in tanning booths. The new EU testing regime for self tans involved testing on animals. Liz Earle refused to let their (very good) Self Tan be tested on animals and so discontinued it rather than go against one of their fundamental principles.
The customers were not happy - but LEC were unrelenting. They still do not carry a self tan in their range. More on LEC and their philosophies here.
If you use any form of self tan - odds are it has been tested on animals - maybe not by the company - but by their source manufacturer.
Forewarned is forearmed.