Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Chemically, they are a series of Parahydroxybenzoates or esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid (also known as 4-hydroxybenzoic acid).


Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties.


They are found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, suntan products, makeup,[1] and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.


Allergic reactions.
In individuals with normal skin, parabens are, for the most part, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Parabens can, however, cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis and rosacea in individuals with paraben allergies, a small percentage of the general population.

Breast cancer.
No evidence shows that application of consumer products containing parabens cause cancer.[11] Investigations by the American Cancer Society and FDA found that current levels of parabens in consumer products were not dangerous.[12][13] A 2005 review concluded “it is biologically implausible that parabens could increase the risk of any estrogen-mediated endpoint, including effects on the male reproductive tract or breast cancer” and that “worst-case daily exposure to parabens would present substantially less risk relative to exposure to naturally occurring endocrine active chemicals in the diet such as the phytoestrogen daidzein.”

Estrogenic activity.
Animal experiments have shown that parabens have weak estrogenic activity, acting as xenoestrogens.[14] In an in vivo study, the effect of butylparaben was determined to be about 1/100,000th that of estradiol, and was only observed at a dose level around 25,000 times higher than the level typically used to preserve products.[15] The study also found that the in vivo estrogenic activity of parabens is reduced by about three orders of magnitude compared to in vitro activity. The estrogenic activity of parabens increases with the length of the alkyl group. It is believed that propylparaben is estrogenic to a certain degree as well,[16] though this is expected to be less than butylparaben by virtue of its less lipophilic nature. Since it can be concluded that the estrogenic activity of butylparaben is negligible under normal use, the same should be concluded for shorter analogues due to estrogenic activity of parabens increasing with the length of the alkyl group.

Sun exposure.
Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin may react with UVB leading to increased skin ageing, skin cancer and DNA damage


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