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Why Are Parabens Bad?

Updated on September 11, 2018
Bridget F profile image

Bridget is a life-long writer, runner, researcher, cat-lover, yogi and traveler. She is also a social worker and voracious reader.

What Are Parabens?

Parabens are preservatives that are found in many shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers and other cosmetics and personal care items. Often, if they are in a product you will see the words "propylparaben, benzylparaben, methylparaben, or butylparaben."

Parabens can be absorbed through your skin, through your digestive system and your blood!* There are even parabens in some food products!

Parabens are added to products in order to prevent the growth of microbes.

(*) Source:

The Problem with Parabens

  • Many studies have shown that women in particular tend to have concentrations of parabens throughout their bodies, particularly in breast tissue.
  • Even women who do not use deodorant (which is typically blamed for the parabens in breast tissue) usually have the parabens in their breast tissue.
  • One recent study* found that parabens were detected in the majority of the breast tissue samples from the women that took part (parabens were found in 158 of the 160 breast tissues sampled. Four samples were taken from each women. This means that every single woman had parabens in her breast tissue.) All of these women were being treated for breast cancer.
  • Dr Philippa Darbre, Reader in Oncology at the University of Reading, who also led the 2004 study said that even though this study could not prove that the parabens caused cancer: "...The fact that parabens were present in so many of the breast tissue samples does justify further investigation."
  • There is also evidence that parabens stimulate the production of estrogen, which may be linked to breast cancer, may interfere with male reproductive functions and may be linked to malignant melanoma.
  • Somewhere between 0.5 to 3.5% of people are allergic to parabens as well!
  • Again, there is no proof at this point that parabens definitively cause cancer. However, there does seem to be mounting evidence toward this conclusion. At this point it is likel a good idea to avoid parabens whenever possible.
  • Many parabens are already banned or restricted in Japan and the European Union!

*Wiley-Blackwell. "Parabens in breast tissue not limited to women who have used underarm products." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2012. <

A Question for You!

Do You Avoid or Plan to Avoid Parabens!?

See results

The FDA Stance on Parabens

At this point the FDA has said that "The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. In general, cosmetic manufacturers may use any ingredient they choose, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation."

They continue and state that an industry-sponsored panel found that it is safe to continue to use parabens as they are. This means that a panel made up of individuals who make money from cosmetics determined that they are safe. Of course they are biased!

The statement from the FDA also includes this: "FDA is aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen."*


A Video On Paraben-Free Products

Avoiding Parabens

If you do choose to avoid parabens there are many products that are paraben-free! The most important thing that you can do is read the labels and be aware! Here are a few options:

The Paraben Plight

The truth is that until more research is done by unbiased scientists we will not know for sure whether or not parabens are truly the cancer-causing chemical that they are beginning to look like! Only time will tell. However, at this point many people are choosing to avoid parabens whenever possible just in case they really are a detriment to our health! Luckily, an increasing number of products are being made that are paraben-free, and hopefully this trend will continue until we know the truth about parabens!


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