What are parabens?

Parabens they are chemical substances that are used as preservatives in cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical products. They are very effective in preventing the proliferation of fungi, bacteria and yeasts. In this way, they avoid elements that can contaminate the products.

Therefore, the parabens they contribute directly to the quality of the products extending their useful life. But this does not mean that without these parabens all these bacteria would appear. In fact, there are many other alternatives.

These preservatives they are derivatives of para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA), It occurs naturally in the body by the breakdown of some amino acids.

Types of parabens

There are two types of parabens:


Organic parabens are derivatives of para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA), It occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. The parabens that are used in cosmetics are identical to those found in nature. For this reason, the body quickly transforms them into natural PHBA and eliminates them.


They are those parabens that have been manufactured chemically. This group consists of six different preservatives. They appear under names ending in –paraben and their content is methanol, ethane or propanol.

Parabens are approved by health authorities. They are considered as substances of low toxicity and safe for health. This is because the body absorbs and metabolizes them to be eliminated without toxic traces.

What are they used for?

Parabens They are used since 1925 as cosmetic preservatives, but they are also used in their different types to preserve pastries, precooked food, soft drinks, sauces and even fresh meat.

They are also used for the composition of various pharmaceutical products, such as cough syrups, antacids, vaginal fungicides and antibiotics, as well as in paracetamol and ibuprofen compositions.

They have a preservative and protective function, since they prevent infection with microorganisms such as fungi or bacteria. We can identify them perfectly on the label by their names: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben or benzylparaben. The usual concentration of these parabens is usually 0.01 to 0.3%.

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What are the effects of parabens?

Between 2002 and 2004, a study came to light explaining that Parabens can be carcinogenic substances.

It was oncologists from the University of Edinburgh who discovered it when they conducted studies on carcinogenic tissues that came from biopsies performed on women with breast cancer. When analyzing these tissues, they came to observe that there were traces of parabens, Therefore, it was concluded that these may increase the risk of developing tumors and breast cancer.

These preservatives they have also altered the body's hormonal balance. In addition, cases of allergic reactions and skin problems, such as redness, dryness, inflammation, itching and pain have increased.

On the other hand, several studies have also concluded that parabens are well absorbed by the intestinal tract and perfectly eliminated in the urine. However, if they are absorbed by the skin when used topically, it seems that their removal is not so simple and quick.

All these problems are causing Many people choose to consume natural products that do not contain parabens. This occurs in organic cosmetics, which uses other types of natural preservatives that are not toxic to health.

Are parabens safe?

The US Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has classified a series of commonly used parabens as GRAS. The GRAS designation means that the substance is generally recognized as safe. among the experts, that is, as if its safety had been demonstrated in the conditions of the intended use.

The FDA also participates in the Cosmetic Ingredients Review (Cosmetic Ingredient Review or CIR). It is an independent group of medical experts and scientists who They meet quarterly to assess the safety of cosmetic ingredients. The evaluation is based on the data published in the scientific literature and the data provided by the cosmetic industry.

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For health authorities, parabens remain a “non-toxic” product and continue to be used. However, despite this, studies are continuing around the world on its long-term effects. In particular, on its application in children's cosmetics, in deodorants and in nail polishes.