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What is Paraben and its Controversy


Recently there has been a lot of talk and controversy over the use of Paraben. Paraben is a group of common chemical preservative used in many cosmetic and health and beauty products. It is found in soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, makeup, lipstick, lotions, sunscreens, deodorants and toothpastes just to name a few. Paraben is very effective as a preservative and in addition with its low cost, it makes it a popular choice.


The longstanding belief was that due to the small amount of Paraben used in cosmetics and personal care products, they are not harmful. This has been proven in clinical studies in the past. However, lately there has been some discussion of potential health risks involved with Paraben. One concern is for those with allergic or sensitive skin types. There are a small percentage of people who might develop rashes or itching from using Paraben. For some, the allergic reaction may develop after long term usage of products with Paraben.



Another controversy revolves around a scientific study that Paraben was discovered in some breast tumors. This has caused some to question whether the estrogen-like effects of paraben helps the development of some tumors like estrogen does. Some scientists say that is seemingly impossible while others have stated that more research is necessary before any conclusion can be drawn.


While there is currently no compelling evidence between the link of tumors, breast cancer and Paraben, some people prefer to take the better safe than sorry side. Some organizations such as the Breast Cancer Fund and the Organic Consumers’ Association seemed to have taken a similar stance.


Figuring out whether or not a product has Paraben isn’t too hard. You generally just have to take a look at the ingredients of the product. Here is a list of many of the common names of different Parabens found in the ingredients of personal care products.

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Benzyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Methyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Ethyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Propyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Butyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Parahydroxybenzoate
  • p-hydroxybenzoate
  • p-hydroxybenzoic acid


However, finding Paraben free products might not be a very simple task though. Almost all the cosmetic and personal care products we use need some form of preservative in them. Or else they would not last more then a few weeks. Some of the natural preservatives like grape seed extract are much less effective then Paraben which gives them shorter shelf life.


In addition, products with all natural ingredients are a tad more expensive then those produced with chemicals and sold in mass market retailers. If you had to change your makeup, shampoo, soap, deodorants, toothpaste, lotions, etc. to Paraben free ones, the cost may start to add up for you.


We may not really know if there is any significant potential risk from the usage of Paraben until further studies are finished. However, the question of should you or shouldn’t use Paraben products ultimately rests on you. Some rather not take the risk. Others though are less concerned and don’t see much harm with a little paraben in products.