A question often raised by my clients, is exactly what are parabens?

So in order to live up to my philosophy transparency in beauty, I wanted to address this subject in more detail, and look at how safe they are on your skin.


Parabens are effective chemical agents  that have been widely used as preservatives since the early 1930s.

Not so long ago manufacturers of cosmetics were using parabens regularly, their popularity was due to their low cost and effectiveness at poisoning bacteria.

This they do by indirectly releasing chemicals that poison microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi and yeast.

They help to reduce the chance of contamination and extend the shelf life of your skin care products.


  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • Methylparaben E number E218
  • Ethylparaben E214 and Butylparaben E216

These are most commonly used parabens.

Each Paraben has its own chemical and toxicology properties, which has a different effect, when it comes to controlling the growth of yeasts and mould.

Although they are a primary fungicidal, they also offer some protection against bacteria, this is why; you may have noticed your skin care product containing more than one type of paraben.

Why the controversy surrounding parabens?

 In 2004 Dr Philippa Darbre a scientist at Reading University, published an article in the journal of Applied Toxicology.

This article was in relation to a random test that was carried out on breast cancer patients.

Dr Darbre discovered that parabens were in all the 20 breast tissue of tumours that were tested; this is where the direct link between parabens and breast cancer came from, an alarming fact, which created a media frenzy!

So should I avoid products with parabens?

Since this time there have been a number of studies carried out on the toxicology of parabens.

Yet no research has ever been able to make a connection with parabens found in personal care products, and breast cancer.

So NO EVIDENCE shows that they STAY in the BODY, or cause irritation.

Clinical studies have shown, that whilst parabens are absorbed into the skins tissues, they are fully metabolised before they enter the blood stream and then quickly eliminated by the body.

One such study carried out on the oestrogen activity of parabens, released a report that stated; “It is impossible for Parabens to increase any risk associated with exposure to Oestrogen chemicals”.

So it seems, the very idea that Parabens found in your personal care products can cause breast cancer, is largely unsubstantiated.


There is no doubt that there has been a lot of controversy around parabens. 

If you are using personal care products without the use of parabens or preservatives, you need to ensure the formula you are using on your skin is safe.

The microbes that grow in this environment include mould, yeast and fungi, which can be far more deadly and more toxic than parabens, and if anything, the use of natural ingredients increases the need for them.

Natural materials have more chance of breaking down and become contaminated with organisms.

It’s certainly an interesting subject, one that obviously does come down to personal choice.

Personally, I feel that it is a subject that does require sensible consideration, before you decide to go preservative free.

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