Everything you need to know about parabens

Everything you need to know about parabens What is a paraben? The term "paraben" refers to a family of chemical substances. There are several of th...
Author: Jade Bennett
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Everything you need to know about parabens

What is a paraben?

The term "paraben" refers to a family of chemical substances. There are several of these substances, which differ in terms of their structure. Generally synthetic, parabens also occur naturally in a certain number of foods. They are thus found in blackberry, barley, strawberry, blackcurrant, vanilla, carrot, peach, white bean, grapefruit or onion, or in foods prepared from plants (grape juice, white wine, wine vinegar, etc.), yeast extracts and some cheeses. Parabens are also found in products produced by bees (propolis, royal jelly, etc.). Furthermore, parabens are present naturally in the human body and may be synthesized by some marine bacteria as a means of defense against other microorganisms.

What are the uses of parabens?


arabens have been used as preservatives for more than 80 years because of their excellent antifungal and antimicrobial properties. They can be used alone or in combination, as a function of need.

The role of preservatives is to restrict, slow down or arrest the growth of bacteria, yeasts, fungi or moulds. They can thus prevent any risks of contamination, either during the manufacture of products or raw materials, or during the use of the products by consumers. They therefore protect the health and safety of consumers and prevent the deterioration of products.

Which products contain parabens? Parabens are present in a large number of the products we use every day: n

In thousands of hygiene and beauty products such as: makeup, shampoos, moisturizing creams, depilatory creams, shaving foams, cleansing gels, lubricants, toothpastes;


In thousands of food products: parabens are used as additives – on labeling they have been allocated the numbers E214, E215, E218 and E219 – in cakes, sweetened beverages, creams and pastries, preserves, jellies, meats, table sweeteners, snacks, candies, preserved fruits and vegetables, and syrups, etc.;


And in hundreds of medicines such as disinfectant creams, cough syrups, nose and ear drops, ovules and suppositories, treatments for intestinal disorders, painkillers and antibiotics, etc.

Do we take a risk for our health when we use a cosmetic containing parabens?


osmetics must obey to a certain number of rules and regulations and are regularly controlled by the authorities. In France and Europe, the list of authorized preservatives is rigorously regulated. Parabens are thus allowed in cosmetic products up to a total concentration of 0.8%. However, their use has been controversial in recent years because of their potential action on the fertility and development of sex organs, as well as on certain tumors (breast, prostate, testicles). No study performed to date have demonstrated any health risks linked to the use of parabens in cosmetics.

On the contrary, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety recently reviewed these studies and concluded that it was possible to continue using parabens in cosmetic products – as it has been the case for many years – without any health risks, as they are some of the best tolerated preservatives*.

To ensure the safest use of your cosmetic products, remember to wash your hands before use, make sure that you close your product carefully after use and follow the use-by date after opening, symbolized by an opened pot on the packaging.

* SCCS/1446/11 Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety Clarification on Opinion SCCS/1348/10 in the light of the Danish clause of safeguard banning the use of parabens in cosmetic products intended for children under three years of age. 10 October 2011. http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/docs/sccs_o_069.pdf


reservatives are essential ingredients in a large number of cosmetic products. If they are absent, these products would only last a few days in the refrigerator, and could both be more easily contaminated and compromise the safety of consumers.

Nevertheless, because of the numerous rumors circulating on this subject, a certain number of cosmetic products are now marketed labeled as being "preservativefree" or "paraben-free". A "paraben-free" label has become an argument that is mainly designed to reassure worried consumers. But it does not mean that the product contains no preservatives; another system is probably used to make it safe. Indeed, it is not possible to market products that might be contaminated or easily become contaminated.

Some types of products do not need a preservative. This is the case, for example, of solid, pasteurized or single-unit products, acne treatments or some fruit acid-based anti-wrinkle creams. Similarly, when a product involves a high level of alcohol or essential oils, or contains antibacterial agents, the addition of preservatives from the authorized list is not necessary. These products can then benefit from a "preservative-free" label.

In all cases, with or without parabens, with other preservatives or preservativefree, cosmetics are products that are safe for the consumer’s health, and guaranteed by the strictest regulations in the world, the European regulations.

If you wish to ask questions about parabens directly to members of the Collège de Dermocosmétologie, or to obtain further information, do not hesitate to contact us: [email protected]

This document was compiled in collaboration with the Collège de Dermocosmétologie. For more information on the Collège of Dermocosmétologie: www.dermocosmetologie.fr

What about "paraben-free" or "preservative-free" products?