What are parabens and the dangers they pose? You’d be surprised.

Have you ever flipped over the bottle of your favorite beauty products to see what ingredients are inside? If the product is not paraben-free, like Nine Naturals, then you will more than likely find parabens listed as an ingredient.

What are parabens?

Parabens are synthetic, chemical preservatives used pervasively in cosmetic and some food products to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in products. Common parabens found in cosmetics include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben.

Since the 1950’s, parabens have been a very common ingredient in cosmetic products including haircare, skincare and make-up products; as much as 75%-95% of cosmetic products contain parabens[1].  The industry’s logic behind using parabens has been that that parabens help protect the consumer from bacteria and also preserve product integrity and maximize shelf life.

For most of the past 60 years, parabens have been considered innocuous. However, in the 1990’s and since then, new studies have suggested that parabens are dangerous for humans.

Why are parabens dangerous?

study conducted in 2004 found parabens in the tissue of breast cancer tumors. The FDA and other researchers have reminded the public that there is not proven causality between parabens and cancer. However, the study did prove that parabens could penetrate the surface layer of the skin and linger in tissues.

Further studies have proven that parabens are hormone disruptors.  Parabens behave like estrogen in the body, thus, interfering with normal hormone functions, which can potentially lead to developmental and reproductive complications.

Why should pregnant women avoid parabens?

Since studies have proven that parabens can penetrate the skin and other organ tissue and reside in your body intact for an extended period of time, there is also potential for a pregnant woman’s exposures to parabens through cosmetic products to be passed on to her unborn baby. In fact, a 2003 study detected parabens in the cord blood of newborn babies and the breast milk of mothers. Exposure to parabens, or to any environmental toxins, during a baby’s critical stages of development in the womb are more impactful not only because smaller doses are more impactful on a pound-for-pound basis, but because a baby’s critical organs are developing at such a rapid rate while in the womb.

Top tips for protecting your family from the potentially harmful effects of parabens:

  1. Learn how to read labels. On the ingredients list parabens may also take on the forms of ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. Keep an eye out for these, or anything else that contains “parabens”.
  2. Switch the products you use the most first. Making the switch to all-natural products doesn’t occur overnight. It takes some time to find an all-natural holy grail worthy foundation or eyeliner. Start by switching out the products you use the most for maximum impact with the least amount of effort. For example, try switching your shampoo or body lotion first—these products are products that you use everyday and come into contact with large areas of skin.
  3. Stick with brands you trust. Look for companies, like Nine Naturals, who are committed to creating safer, more natural products for you.
  4. Follow the science. There are a number of organization doing great research, advocacy and public service on the issue of parabens. We recommend paying close attention to these organizations:


Most people assume that if a company is selling a product that it is necessarily safe and that the government regulates the use of chemicals in the cosmetic industry. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are very few regulations limiting what cosmetic companies can use in products the United States. The U.S. FDA has banned or restricted only 11 chemicals in cosmetics, while the EU has banned over 1,300!  Until there is stricter regulation, the onus is on us, as mothers, to make sure that the products we are using on ourselves and our families are safe.


[1] Winter, R. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, 7th ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009.