What Are Parabens? Are They Safe to Consume?

by | Mar 12, 2020 | 0 comments

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Should you be avoiding parabens?

Is there a cause for concern?

With many brands now proudly labeling their products “paraben-free”, buying new cosmetics can become confusing. It’s important to first understand why brands are introducing new labels and what it means for us as the consumer. 

Over the last few years, you may have noticed a number of cosmetic brands introduce “paraben-free” products. They are preservatives that have been used in cosmetics for over the last 70 years but have recently come under scrutiny for possible health issues they cause.

What Are Parabens? Are They Safe to Consume?

What are Parabens Used For?

Parabens are used in most cosmetic products, such as skincare, to help eliminate the natural growth of bacteria and mold caused by exposure to sunlight, air, and water. They help keep your product safe so that you do not contract any germ while using your product.


The types used today are mostly short-chain synthetic paraben products such as Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Butylparaben, and Heptylparaben.

Parabens have been a trusted form of preservatives for over half a century for cosmetic brands all over the world.

Why Brands Are Going “Paraben-Free”

A few years ago, a piece of research was launched that suggested some paraben products are linked to an increase in breast cancer. This research has been the foundation for many brands going paraben-free and millions of people warning against the dangers surrounding paraben products.

The problem lies in the misinterpretation of the data. The research conducted found that excessive use of “long-chain parabens” may increase the risk of cancer. Long-chain parabens were banned by the EU in 2014 and are very rarely used in any cosmetics today.

In order to run the risk of cancer from long-chain paraben strains, you would have to use a huge quantity each and every day over a long period of time. It is, therefore, unlikely that you would be at risk of developing cancer from your current cosmetics.

So far, there is no evidence to suggest that short-chain paraben strains which are the most commonly used in your cosmetics increase your risk of developing cancer.

Should I Avoid Parabens?

There is currently no reason to avoid cosmetic products containing paraben strains. It is also worth noting that many new products that contain natural and synthetic paraben strains may not be any safer than those without parabens.

The label “paraben-free” is very misleading and helps consumers to think the product is better for their health. This is not based on any current scientific research. 

You may choose to avoid products that have paraben in the ingredients if you want to play it safe and are the type to worry about such things.

If you want another reason you might want to avoid parabens is their effect on the ocean and marine life. Paraben products have been found to harm coral life and marine animals when ingested. 

How Do I Know If a Product Contains Parabens?

The best way to check if a product has parabens is to read the ingredient list. It will not explicitly tell you which ingredients are paraben derivative. You should look for the following:

Short-Chain Parabens

  • Ethylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Heptylparaben

Long-Chain Parabens (Rare)

  • Propylparaben
  • Benzylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
Photo by Branislav Belko on Unsplash

What products typically contain Paraben?


Typical food products that contain parabens for preservation include:

  • beer
  • sauces
  • desserts
  • soft drinks
  • jams
  • pickles
  • frozen dairy products
  • processed vegetables
  • flavoring syrups

Some fruits, such as blueberries, contain naturally occurring paraben preservatives.

Beauty & Skin Products:

  • Facial Moisturizers
  • Anti-Aging Creams
  • Foundations
  • Fragrances

Keep in mind that while some paraben can be used in products, that doesn't make the product toxic or even close to lethal. Most of the available paraben toxicity data are from single-exposure studies, meaning one type of paraben in one type of product. According to paraben research, this is relatively safe, posing only a negligible risk to the endocrine system.

Written by Anna C.

I am a wife and mother of two sons. We live in Rural Northeast Ohio with our 2 cats, 2 dogs & many fish. I love all things Supernatural, Harry Potter, elephants, sunflowers, crystals, occult, crafting, coffee, wine, and online shopping. Have a TikTok, PokemonGo & Elder Scrolls addiction, I've always loved plants, recently I became a houseplant mom, and am currently growing over 15 varieties in our home! Now if I could get my outside gardens to flourish I will be happy. When I'm not tending to the home, pets, plants, or hanging out on the couch catching up on my shows, I'm doing some type of crafting or DIY project. (Or I'm pestering my husband in the barn.)

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