Parabens: A Review of Epidemiology, Structure, Allergenicity, and Hormonal Properties

Allison L. Cashman; Erin M. Warshaw


Dermatitis. 2005;16(2):57-66. 

In This Article


The 'para' group of antigens are frequent sensitizers and consist of chemicals with a free amino group in the para position of a benzene ring. Table 4 lists chemicals in this group. There is debate about the cross-reactivity of parabens and the 'para' group because parabens have a hydroxyl group instead of an amino group in the para position. Rudzki and Kleniewska reported that of 144 patients sensitive to para-phenylenediamine, 20 (14%) were allergic to parabens, and that in a separate group of 62 benzocaine-sensitive individuals, 20 (32%) were allergic to the parabens.[117] Although para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) itself does not cross-react with parabens, the esters of PABA may show cross-reactivity.[92] According to Fisher, there have been no reported cases of cross-reactions between PABA ester and the other 'para' compounds or with benzoic acid.[91] However, Rietschel and Fowler noted several unpublished cases of positive patch-test reactions to parabens, PABA, and para-phenylenediamine that appeared to be true cross-reactions.[18] In addition, Johnson and DeStigter reported a woman with demonstrated hypersensitivity to procaine, tetracaine, mepivacaine, and methylparaben.[106]