What Are Parabens? Should I Worry About Them?

Look on the back of your cosmetics and personal care product labels. Odds are, you’ll see tucked among a laundry list of ingredients the following: butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.

These ingredients are called “parabens.” Curious what they are? Read on.

What are parabens?

What are parabens-

Parabens have been widely used as an inexpensive preservative in cosmetic products since the 1950s. In fact, more than three quarters of cosmetics use them.

In the industry, parabens are considered a cheap, effective solution to keeping products from expiring.

However, recently, a debate has been building in the scientific community concerning their use. Are they really safe?

What makes parabens concerning?

What are parabens- (1)

Cancer is on the rise. More and more women face breast cancer and uterine cancer than ever before, and male breast and testicular cancer is also increasing. Is there a link?

Some researchers feel there may be reason for concern.

See, some have identified parabens as a phytoestrogen, or ‘endocrine disruptor’—i.e. a chemical that mimics estrogen in the body. The worry is that these chemicals, which are absorbed into our bodies, are actually messing with our endocrine system, leading to a ’warping’ of sorts.

Dr. Philippa Darbre, a senior researcher in biomolecular sciences at University of Reading in the United Kingdom, says we should be vigilant.

“We’ve known for more than 25 years that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression; it is the reason tamoxifen [commonly prescribed to women with breast cancer] is used to disrupt estrogen receptors,’ says Darbre. ‘So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic estrogen might be having an impact.’

But is this a conclusive reason to avoid them? 

Should I avoid parabens?


Not necessarily. Going by the book, there is no conclusive evidence that parabens directly cause cancer. They are used in cosmetics only in small amounts, and they can protect from the growth of bacteria and other nasties.

However, the “better safe than sorry” route also has its benefits. 

The science of endocrine disruption is “fraught with uncertainty.” It can be hard to nail down the health effects of a specific chemical among thousands influencing our bodies each day. We don’t know just how much risk we’re dealing with.

Here’s what we do know: Parabens have some biological influence.

Scientists are still studying the effects of endocrine disruptors, and trying to form links that will help us (and the cosmetics industry on the whole) make better decisions. In the meantime, we have to work with the information we have.

So, given the option, I’ll be choosing paraben-free.

What do you think of parabens? Will you be phasing them out of your makeup and skincare?



Jerome S
Jerome S11 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Marcin J
Marcin J11 months ago


Telica R
Telica Rabout a year ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

Margie F
Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Thank you

Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago


Jane R
Jane Rabout a year ago

I'm not worried. If it was a cause of cancer then every woman who wears makeup would get cancer and that's not the case.

Virginia Miller
Virginia Millerabout a year ago

Thanks for the info.

Lindsay K
Lindsay Kabout a year ago

I try to avoid parabens, but it's not always easy. It's often found in moisturising creams, aqueous cream etc.

Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago

I would be more concerned about actors who need to wear thick makeup for roles on a regular basis. Have any studies been done on cancer in actors compared to the general population?