What Exactly Are Parabens & Why Should You Avoid Them?

Maintaining one’s hygiene is a top daily priority for most people. The shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste you rely on all play a big part in helping you meet your cleanliness goals. Of course, you might also be surprised to learn some of these products contain some questionable chemicals. Since items like deodorant come in contact with bacteria regularly, manufacturers have taken to using specific preservatives to neutralize any potential health hazards.

One of the chemicals that has seen widespread use is paraben. Though parabens have been found in various toiletries for a long while, health advocates are now pointing out some worrisome results from studies conducted over recent years. To know whether or not you should be avoiding parabens, it can be useful to examine some key points.

Hormone Problems

Parabens have not been viewed as a threat until now because the short-term impact of exposure is considered minimal. In fact, parabens seem only harmful outright if a person decides to eat his or her deodorant or toothpaste. Since this is not likely for an adult to do, it might not seem like parabens are that much of a problem. In truth, studies have shown that the body is often absorbing parabens through the skin and storing them away in fat cells. This keeps the parabens in your body for long durations and can lead to health complications.

One common problem people with long-term exposure to parabens exhibit is an imbalance with hormone production. Parabens have been shown in various studies to disrupt hormone production in some serious ways. When left untreated, this imbalance has led to breast cancer and other risks in some individuals. This is attributed to parabens increasing the level of estrogen in a person’s body, making them more susceptible to tumor growth.

The Flip Side

While the above information might be enough for some to turn away from products that contain paraben, there are some who are skeptical. Some critics have stated that the studies released surrounding parabens and breast cancer do not take many additional factors into consideration. Though there have been several other studies conducted over the years, there is not enough conclusive evidence to suggest that parabens directly lead to cancer. Still, there have been many strides forward in recent years to reduce and remove parabens from most products.

Back in 2012, the European Union decided to ban the use of several parabens in health and beauty products outright. In America, it has been left to individual companies to make the decision. There are a number of large and small companies taking progressive steps towards finding a solution to parabens. Instead of relying on an outright ban to force their hands, these manufacturers are turning to alternate sources for their preservative needs. While this has resulted in a shorter shelf-life for some products, the precaution may prove to be a wise decision in the long run.

Ultimate Decision

Making the choice on whether or not to use products containing parabens can be tricky. Steering clear of them might be more sensible until more studies are released. Still, using your best judgment can help you to find safe options to keep you feeling fresh.


Article written by Joe Palinsky

Joe Palinsky is a full-time writer and theater professional in Philadelphia. He predominantly works with ensemble-based Found Theater Company, where his writing has been featured in numerous productions. Though primarily a ghostwriter, his work has been published in the now-defunct Spirit News and as a guest on Found Theater’s blog.