What Are Parabens; Sources, Health Effects, And Prevention

Recently, more companies are claiming they don’t use parabens as concerns about potential human health risks associated with these chemicals are rising. There has also been a growing body of evidence linking parabens to certain cancers and abnormal hormone function.

In this article, we will cover how you can get exposed to parabens, the potential health risks, and the best ways to avoid these chemicals.

What Are Parabens?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parabens are synthetic chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics and personal-care products. These include shaving cream and shampoo, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and food.

There are several types of parabens, some commonly found in food, including propylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, and butylparaben.

Common Sources of Parabens

Parabens are used as a preservative in a wide range of products you encounter daily. However, the greatest exposure comes from cosmetics and personal-care products.

If you want to know if a product contains these chemicals and the label does not indicate “paraben-free,” check the ingredients list for the word “parabens” or any of its versions; for instance, “methylparaben” would suggest the presence of a paraben.

According to Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, long-term daily exposure to parabens is common because these chemicals prevent contamination in multiple products that people use most of their lives. They are commonly ingested or absorbed from paraben-containing personal-care products such as deodorants, lotions, shaving, and hair-care products.’

Health Problems That May Be Linked to Parabens

Parabens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, which may interfere with producing hormones necessary for normal growth and development. According to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in February 2022, parabens could contribute to various issues related to abnormal hormone production, including breast cancer and fertility.

How to Limit or Avoid Exposure to Parabens

According to Homer Swei, Ph.D., the senior vice president for healthy living science at the Environmental Working Group, the best thing you can do is scrutinize product labels. You can also search the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for verified paraben-free products.


Parabens are widely used in consumer products because the alternatives, products with mold or bacteria, are not things you want growing in your system. Organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology have also generally declared these products safe.

If you are still concerned, reading product labels carefully is best to avoid parabens.