If you have ever read the label on your hand or body lotion, you’ll find that in most cases paraben in some form is an ingredient. Parabens are the most widely used preservatives found in personal care products, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, and food. They are found in about 90% of these products, and come in a number of forms, including methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, propyl paraben, butyl paraben, and isobutyl paraben. Paraben use in products has been around for about 70 years and are added to prolong the life shelf of a product.
The use of parabens was intended to protect the consumer from infection. They are generally considered less irritating than most other preservatives, and are primarily used for their anti bacterial and anti fungal properties.
Many plants produce parabens naturally as a defense mechanism against infection by microbes. Parabens are produced by blueberries, carrots, cucumbers, prunes, and olives, to name a few. Some parabens added to products are identical to natural parabens, and are often ingredients in beer, wine, fruit juices and jams, as they are easily metabolized.
Parabens have created some concern, as they are considered to be hormone disruptors. This means that they have demonstrated estrogenic activity in the body and may increase the risk of some women’s cancers, particularly breast cancer. However, some foods, such as almonds, apples, and cabbage also exhibit some amount of estrogenic activity. There’s a great deal of debate about the safety and use of parabens. Health Canada and the FDA approve the use of parabens as preservatives and classify them as GRAS(Generally Recognized as Safe).