Greenly Basics: What’s the deal with PARABENS?

Greenly Basics on Parabens

Written by Marie of And The Color Green for The Greenly Guide

Marie - And the color Green


Marie was raised by hippies so a natural perspective towards living has always been a no-brainer. Her philosophy towards green living is to seek knowledge and just do the best you can. She can be found on You Tube where she creates videos around all things green from household to beauty.




You have probably seen ‘paraben free’ marketing in the beauty industry. You might have wondered what are they and if they are harmful. Let’s break it down!

Common names

Butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben

Common concentrations in personal products

0.03 (single paraben) -0.80 (multiple parabens) percent depending on the product

What are they?

A synthetic preservative.

How did they end up in beauty products?

They are very good at keeping bacteria and fungi at bay. The probable reason they flourished in beauty products is because they are not irritating to the skin or hair.

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What do we know?

• They are generally dissolved better in oily products
• They have a low molecular weight and are therefore easily absorbed into the body.
• Estimated daily human exposure to parabens via personal care products was 5 – 50 Dg/kg/day (taken from source #1)
• CDC scientists found Methylparaben and propylparaben in the urine of most of the people tested, indicating widespread exposure to these parabens in the U.S. population.
• In plain language, out body processes them and we pee them out


What are the proposed safety risks?

• Parabens have been known to increase expression of estrogen related genes
• Simply put, parabens can mess with endocrine functions
• Disrupting endocrine functions have been linked to a variety of medical conditions.
• Studies have linked them to breast cancer

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Straight Science Talk

It is documented that parabens have a possible endocrine disrupting effect. Why are they not banned? A lot of studies say that they are not known carcinogens and that we excrete them quickly so the risk of negative effects on the body are low. Studies also suggest that we are not exposed to parabens in large enough quantities to make a significant difference.

Common Sense Talk

As with any personal decision, one should check the facts and read the studies. However, one thing I will point out is that a common theme in the literature is that there are data gaps and that more complex studies are needed. With that being said, avoiding the potential risk of parabens is pretty easy in our current beauty industry so most people find it better to err on the side of caution and avoid parabens altogether.

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Exposure to endocrine disruptors during adulthood: consequences for female fertility
J Endocrinol JOE-17-0023, doi: 10.1530/JOE-17-0023 First published online 29 March 2017

“Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, and Butylparaben.” International Journal of Toxicology 3.5 (1984): 147-209. Web.

Michalun, M. Varinia., and Joseph C. Dinardo. Milady skin care and cosmetic ingredients dictionary. Clifton Park, NJ: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.

Winter, Ruth. A consumer’s dictionary of cosmetic ingredients: complete information about the harmful and desirable ingredients found in cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009. Print.

5 thoughts on “Greenly Basics: What’s the deal with PARABENS?”

  1. Great article Marie! I love the science behind it and how not “preachy” it is. I have friends who work in science and don’t mind them, and others who do. I am a better safe than sorry kind of gal, and I think there are so many cooler option on the market!


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