Parabens are used as preservatives in many cosmetic and personal care products, including make-up, moisturizers, hair care products and shaving products. They are generally used at concentrations of 0.5% or less.
All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced, although some parabens also occur naturally as preservatives in certain fruits (for example, blueberries and carrots).
Parabens have been found to weakly mimic estrogens in in vitro studies and some, but not all, parabens have been found to have effects on the development of the male reproductive system in animal studies. While this raises a concern, there is currently no clear evidence that, at current levels of use in cosmetics, parabens cause similar effects in humans. In 2008, the U.S. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel concluded that parabens are "safe as used" in cosmetics. In 2012 the Panel re-examined its previously published safety assessment of parabens and reaffirmed the safety of parabens as preservatives in the present practices of use and concentration in cosmetics. The European Union's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has published multiple opinions on parabens that state the use of some parabens in cosmetics is safe, within limits. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also made a statement on parabens in cosmetics.
Health Canada is currently conducting an assessment of parabens in all uses, to be published as a draft in Summer 2019. We will continue to monitor and review any new scientific data on parabens.