If you flip over a bottle of almost any health and beauty aid, you will see an ingredient ending with the word “paraben.” What is a paraben and why is it in everything you put on your body?  Is paraben just a safe filler put in product to make them better or is there really a problem with parabens that we need to be worried about?

What are parabens?

Scientific definition:

Parabens are preservatives that are used in a wide range of cosmetic, pharmaceutical and some food products. Parabens are esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and commonly include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

In simpler terms:

It is a chemical that keeps your lotion, face cream and mascara from growing mold, fungus and other creepy critters.

Why are parabens in my product?

Think about the beauty and curse of the modern world, we want and can have everything when we want it. In order to have a constant and cheap stock of your favorite lotion sitting on the shelf at your local Mega-lo Mart, it has to stay fresh for a long time. If you bought a small artisan product or made a do it yourself, you eliminate the need for the paraben because you are making/buying what you plan to consume.

Simpler terms:

Parabens help to keep a supply of product just in case there is a demand.

What is the problem with parabens?


There is an issue when any chemical or substance is overused in a way that is not natural. For example, I strongly believe that that overuse of soy, corn, and wheat in almost all packaged foods has lead to so many people experiencing allergic type symptoms. I do not believe that so many people have a genetic disposition to be sensitive to these ingredients.

As I previously explained, there would be almost no exposure to parabens in nature. However, we slather copious amount on with no real information on its safety. I looked at a bottle of lotion and it had three different variations of parabens in it. Did the first one not get the job done?

Here is further information that causes concern:

Products found to contain parabens include hand soap, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, face lotion, facial cleansers, foundation, lipstick, mascara, hair spray/mousse/gel, toothpaste, and sunscreen.One study identified parabens in 44% of cosmetics tested. In personal care products tested in the US, concentrations of methylparaben up to 1.0% were found, with lipsticks containing the highest concentration ranging from 0.15% to 1.0%.The other parabens are used at concentrations lower than methylparaben in personal care products. Methylparaben and propylparaben are the most commonly used parabens in pharmaceutical products at concentrations of up to 20%; both of these preservatives are also used in food products such as jams, jellies, fillings and toppings at concentrations of up to 0.1%.

Cancer links

So this the biggest stinky about parabens. Parabens cause an estrogenic effect in the human body. Breast cancer cells and excess estrogen is a bad mix. So you could read plenty of sources that tell you that there is no clear link. I do not argue that point. However, I do not want to find the link on the other side of a  malignant, metastatic tumor. Does the simple cliche’ better be safe than sorry mean anything?

Other Concerns

Having estrogenic properties can unleash a whole slew of Pandora’s box issues into the mix:

  • Young girls and precocious puberty
  • Reproductive issues in men and women
  • Growth of other estrogen loving tumors, like in/near the uterus, vagina, and ovaries


What do the officials say?

No surprise that the government and manufacturers say these products are A-ok! Unilever which is the producer of brands, like Axe and Dove, has a whole section on their site dedicated to the subject. I linked it below if you would like to read for yourself. The FDA is not in control of the use of parabens. These ingredients do not need approval before they hit the market. Who is protecting or informing you the consumer?

What should you do?

Here is a three-step approach to buying all future products:

  1. Scan products for ingredients that might be questionable, and then avoid that product
  2. Shop brands that promote their commitment to cleaner ingredients, and clearer labels
  3. Use the most natural ingredients possible to cause the least amount of confusion

Simple enough, right?

You should read and think before you buy. Question everything you put in and on your body. The argument over why you are sick or how it happened will not matter to you and your family if it did happen to you. Be in control of your own health. Maybe there is not a problem with parabens at all, but erring on the side of caution could give you the peace of mind that you are not putting yourself in harm’s way.


Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Ingredients – Parabens in Cosmetics.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/productsingredients/ingredients/ucm128042.htm

Kirchhof, M., and G. De Gannes. “The Health Controversies of Parabens.” The Health Controversies of Parabens. Medscape, 2013. http://www.skintherapyletter.com/2013/18.2/2.html

Unilever. “Parabens.” Unilever Global Company https://www.unilever.com/about/innovation/Our-products-and-ingredients/Your-ingredient-questions-answered/Parabens.html

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