There’s a lot of misinformation about parabens out there, and you may have heard that they should be avoided. In fact, multiple scientific bodies have deemed them safe. However, if you’d prefer to avoid them, there are plenty of paraben-free products available. Just keep in mind that it’s likely they will contain other forms of preservatives, instead. 

What are parabens?

Parabens are preservatives found in a range of skincare, cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical products. They also occur naturally in many fruits, such as blueberries, cocoa and onions. The parabens most commonly used in skincare are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. To be clear – preservatives themselves are not bad. In fact, most skincare products require preservatives to help prevent bacteria and other organisms growing and spoiling products. 

Why do people worry about them?

Parabens became controversial when some research suggested they could cause health problems.  However, the evidence is not sound, and many large organisations including the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety and the Therapeutic Goods Administration, have deemed parabens in cosmetics and skincare to be safe. If you choose products without parabens, it’s likely they will contain other preservatives instead. Parabens are a rare cause of allergic reactions. If you think you could be allergic to parabens, it may be worth seeing a health professional to be tested.



Cancer Council Western Australia 2019, Cosmetics and Cancer, Cancer Council Western Australia, viewed 3 April 2021, <>


European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety. (2011),.Parabens used in cosmetics . Retrieved from:


Final amended report on the safety assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Benzylparaben as used in cosmetic products. Int J Toxicol. 2008;27 Suppl 4:1-82. 


Kirchhof MG, de Gannes GC. The health controversies of parabens. Skin Therapy Lett. 2013 Feb;18(2):5-7. 


US Food and Drug Administration 2020, Parabens in Cosmetics, US Food and Drug Administration, viewed 3 April 2021, <>


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Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…