Personal care products

Parabens are a family of related chemicals used as preservatives in personal care products, like deodorants, shampoos, makeup, moisturizers and shaving creams. They are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and other microbes in creams and makeup. Parabens can cause skin allergy and irritation. Common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Parabens can also be listed as alkyl parahydroxybenzoates. Methylparaben as a food additive has E number E218.  Ethylparaben: as a food additive has E number E214. Propylparaben: as a food additive has E number E217.

Although the FDA states that parabens are “Generally Recognized As Safe”, several studies have shown that some parabens can mimic other hormones, making them endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors can adversely affect the male reproductive system and can alter hormone signaling and gene expression. Proper endocrine signaling is especially important while in the womb and during childhood and adolescence. Chemicals that disrupt hormone signaling can lead to adverse effects on development, reproduction, and the neurological and immune systems (like early puberty in adolescents and testicular enlargement and breast development in young boys). Parabens have been detected in human breast cancer tissues, suggesting a possible association between parabens in cosmetics and cancer. In the European Union the use of common parabens (methyl and ethyl) have been limited in cosmetics and banned in products directed to children younger than 3.


Parabens are also used in processed foods as preservatives. They are metabolized when eaten, making them less strongly estrogenic. But, when applied to the skin and absorbed into the body, they bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact. Although studies have been conducted on the presence of parabens in urine, more research is needed on the long-term and accumulative effects of these chemicals in our bodies.

Choose paraben-free

Since our kids are in such important phases of their lives when it comes to hormonal development, and we as women put so many products on our faces and bodies, I´d say it´s better to err on the safe side and opt for paraben-free products. The potential danger here is that the manufacturer may take out the paraben, only to replace it with another synthetic preservative that is equally or more dubious when it comes to health concerns. So, the best option would be to choose products with natural preservatives, such as citric acid, rosemary extract, and grapefruit seed extract. Another option is choosing products with ethylhexylglycerin, a plant-derived preservative. Another plant-derived preservative is phenoxyethanol, but studies have shown that this ingredient can cause skin irritation and allergy. If you want to avoid products that contain phenoxyethanol, you need to be very alert. It is known under names like 2-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether, 2-phenoxy-ethanol and rose ether. Some manufacturers don't even mention the preservative on their product labels. For example when it is used as a fragrance, it is simply listed as "fragrance". So, if a label reads "fragrance" but does not specify what kind, it could be phenoxyethanol.  

Summary Parabens