What Are the Risks of Parabens in Cosmetics?

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  • Written By: T. Alaine
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 10 May 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Parabens have a long history of use in cosmetics as preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria and extend the shelf-life of various products. These sounds like good traits, except that there is significant doubt concerning the safety of parabens in cosmetics. In some studies, parabens have been linked to multiple human health problems ranging from allergic reactions to cancer. Many people believe that even though the percentage of parabens in cosmetics compared with other ingredients is small, the sheer variety of products that contain parabens increases human exposure to these risky preservatives.

Using parabens in cosmetics for preservative purposes is quite common, and often, multiple parabens are used in a single product. Preventing bacterial growth is advantageous because it can prevent infections and helps keep products usable for much longer. The risks of parabens in cosmetics, however, might outweigh the benefits if the criticisms of them are true.

Allergic reactions are one specific risk of parabens in cosmetics. Many products that employ parabens are applied directly to the skin or near the eyes, so allergies can prevent a very serious risk to users. People who are concerned with putting excess chemicals in their bodies should know that parabens, which are derived from petroleum, do not simply sit on top of the skin. Parabens are easily absorbed by the body and can enter the bloodstream after being applied topically to the skin.


A much more severe potential risk of parabens in cosmetics is that they might be carcinogenic, which means that they might cause cancer. Parabens interfere with the hormonal balance in the body because they behave similarly to estrogen, which occurs naturally in both males and females. Breast cancer, specifically, is a big concern when it comes to parabens. Some studies have shown that significant amounts of parabens are found in the tissues of breast cancer patients, which implies that paraben buildup can cause cancerous cells to develop. Additionally, parabens have been associated with decreased fertility, organ toxicity and developmental problems.

It is possible for one to reduce the risks of exposure to parabens in cosmetics by switching to paraben-free cosmetics. The scope of products that use parabens as preservatives is enormous, however. Parabens can be found in soaps, lotions, makeup, and perfumes, to name just a few products.

It is fairly easy for a consumer to spot parabens on the ingredients list of products. There are many types, but the names will all end in the suffix "paraben." For example, consumers can easily recognize "ethylparaben" or "propylparaben." The awareness of potential risks of parabens in cosmetics has led to an increased popularity of paraben-free cosmetics, which do not contain these potentially risky preservatives.



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