The Health Controversies of Parabens

Mark G. Kirchhof, MD, PhD; Gillian C. de Gannes, MD, MSc, FRCPC


Skin Therapy Letter. 2013;18(2) 

In This Article

Government and Regulatory Control of Parabens

Government regulatory boards have examined parabens and most have agreed that current concentrations of parabens are safe for consumer use. The European Union (EU) has set up limits on paraben use that have also been reviewed by the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP). In 2006, the SCCP concluded that parabens can be safely used in cosmetic products at concentrations of 0.4% for any individual paraben and 0.8% for total paraben concentrations.[1,41] These limits echo the legislative limits put in place by the EU. The Danish government went further in 2011 by banning the use of parabens in personal care products intended for children younger than 3 years of age. This decision is based on the possibility of high systemic absorption from an immature metabolism and skin barrier dysfunction.[42] In the United States, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) assesses ingredients for safety and is reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The CIR has recommended the same maximum paraben concentrations as suggested by the SCCP and as legislated by the EU.[1] However, it should be noted that the CIR recommendations are only guidelines and manufacturers are not required to follow them. Likewise in Canada, there are no laws regulating paraben concentrations, but Health Canada agrees with the FDA and the CIR in regards to the safety of parabens and the adoption of maximum concentration guidelines.[43]