What are parabens?

Parabens are a group of related chemicals commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic and body products from the 1920s and early 1950s. The parabens often seen in cosmetic and body items include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. Products containing paraben often have more than one paraben and have a combination of other types of preservatives for longer shelf life.

What are parabens typically used for?

Parabens are used in cosmetic products such as makeup, moisturizers, lotion, shaving, and hair care products. They can also be found in foods and drugs. Parabens in skincare may be used to prolong the use of cosmetic and body products because these items are often biodegradable and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, yeast, and mold. Products containing parabens usually have these four chemical names and can be easily identified as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or ethylparaben. Those who wish to avoid parabens and exclusively buy paraben free products should look for these chemical names.

Why are parabens considered unsafe?

Are parabens safe? They are often considered unsafe for several health reasons. Scientific researches suggest that parabens disrupt the hormones in the body resulting in fertility issues, reproductive harm, a higher risk of cancer, and a negative impact on birthing outcomes. In the United States, researchers report that the detection of parabens is in nearly all urine samples taken in adults living in the US, with women at higher risk of having it (this may be related to their higher usage of cosmetic products).

Parabens disrupt endocrine activity and can mimic estrogen in the body. Scientific studies suggest that parabens can affect the mechanism of normal breast cells and potentially accelerate abnormal cell growth, increasing the risks of breast cancer diagnoses. In 2016, a study by the University of California-Berkeley, Pan et al. (2016) found that butylparaben potency increases with HER ligands. They report that the ligands, in conjunction with parabens, stimulate oncogene expression and breast cancer cell proliferation at low doses. Their study suggests that parabens might be active at low exposure levels previously not considered harmful in previous studies that tested the impact of parabens in isolation of HER ligands.

Final Note

Given the reproductive harm, infertility issues, and higher risk of cancer associated with long-chain parabens (isobutylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, and propylparaben), they should not be used in cosmetic or personal products. At Kushae, every product is paraben free and we strive to continue to provide our Kushae Baes with the best and safest products to maintain a non-toxic feminine care routine.

Pan, S., Yuan, C., Tagmount, A., Rudel, R. A., Ackerman, J. M., Yaswen, P., Vulpe, C. D., & Leitman, D. C. (2016). Parabens and human epidermal growth factor receptor ligand cross-talk in breast cancer cells. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(5), 563–569. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1409200

November 02, 2022

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.