Are parabens carcinogenic

Parabens - Are They Harmful and Dangerous?

One hears again and again about harmful parabens. Hardly anyone knows what parabens are and how they can endanger health. Are cosmetics without parabens really the better choice?


What are parabens?

Parabens are a group of chemicals that are used as preservatives in cosmetic products and sometimes even in food. Since cosmetics often consist of water and germs like to thrive in it, preservation is necessary.

How to recognize parabens in cosmetics

Recognizing parabens is easy. On the ingredient list, they always end in "-paraben":

  • Methyl paraben
  • Ethyl paraben
  • Propyl paraben
  • Butyl paraben
  • Isopropyl paraben
  • Isobutyl paraben

Why are parabens being criticized?

Parabens are very similar to the structure of the female sex hormone estrogen. They can be absorbed through the skin (dermally absorbed). Therefore, it is feared that they can upset people's hormonal balance.

Experiments on rats show that this fear is not unfounded. In male rats, the parabens lower testosterone levels and lead to a decrease in healthy sperm. Uterine growth was found in female rats. So the animals became more feminine.

Are cosmetics containing parabens harmful? The institutes do not agree.

Are Parabens a Health Hazard?

The damage to health is difficult to assess. Corresponding long-term studies on humans are lacking. However, one thing seems certain: Parabens accumulate in our body.

One study, with 2,548 participants, showed that parabens can be found in almost everyone. The measured concentration is significantly higher in women (as they use more cosmetic products).

Very little can (still) be said about the consequences. Health authorities such as the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) attribute low toxicity to the parabens. They point out that other preservatives often have a significantly higher allergenic potential.

Parabens: a trigger for breast cancer?

Pink Ribbon, a campaign against breast cancer, suggests that parabens have been repeatedly detected in breast cancer tumor tissues. Since estrogen aids the growth of these tumors, these findings are tricky.

Incidentally, the larger the area rubbed in, the more parabens get into the body. A face cream with parabens is therefore less of a concern than a body cream or body lotion.

Why are parabens used?

Parabens are very inexpensive and only need to be used in low concentrations. But above all, they are very well tolerated in cosmetics. Other preservatives can often cause rashes and other reactions.

Safe preservatives often require high concentration and drive up the total price of creams. Many quality-conscious manufacturers now rely on Pentylene Glycol, a moisturizer with antimicrobial properties. However, not every manufacturer wants to pay for that.

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Parabens in natural cosmetics?

The use of mineral oils, silicones and microplastics is prohibited in all certified natural cosmetics. But does that also apply to parabens? This is unclear as parabens occur naturally. You are e.g. B. contained in fruit.

Manufacturers of natural cosmetics can choose between different seals. The information on parabens varies from seal to seal.

Products with the NaTrue seal must not contain any parabens. The BDIH seal says: "Only benzoic acid [...] may be used for preservation." However, parabens can be synthesized from benzoic acid. So it remains somewhat unclear.

Examined and unexamined parabens

Four types of parabens were investigated in studies on rats. The larger butyl and propyl parabens and the smaller methyl and ethyl parabens.

Maximum concentrations in cosmetic products have been specified for these 4 parabens. There is no clear research evidence for other types of parabens. The effect of isopropyl, isobutyl and phenyl parabens cannot be adequately assessed. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment advises cosmetic manufacturers against using these parabens.

The following table shows a listing of all parabens. We especially advise against using unexplored parabens.

SurnameMaximum concentration allowedAre there any studies?
Propyl paraben
Butyl paraben
Methyl paraben
Ethyl paraben
Isopropyl parabenNo commitmentNo
Phenyl parabenUse prohibitedNo


Unfortunately, inexpensive preservation of your own products often seems to be attractive. The database alone lists 1004 cosmetic products that have been preserved with the unexplored parabens. In our opinion a scandal!

If you discover the unexplored parabens on the ingredient list, you are dealing with a really dumb ass manufacturer and should avoid the product and that manufacturer in the future.


Other pollutants in cosmetics

In our opinion, good cosmetics should avoid the following ingredients:



Parabens are preservatives with little allergenic potential. The use is still problematic. They are suspected of influencing our endocrine system. On closer inspection, there are no studies that allow a risk assessment for humans.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment still allows its use in cosmetics. We therefore recommend everyone to take a close look at the list of ingredients in cosmetic products. Parabens are often used even in luxury cosmetics.

When caring for skin and hair, we recommend the use of paraben-free cosmetics. Our products therefore do not contain any parabens or other harmful substances such as mineral oils or silicones.



Antonia M. Calafat - Urinary Concentrations of Four Parabens in the U.S. population

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment - Use of Parabens in Cosmetic Products

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