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

Alternatives to Parabens

There are numerous preservatives that could be used in place of parabens. Some other commonly used preservatives include formaldehyde, quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea and dimethyloldimethyl hydantoin.[18] These preservatives more commonly cause allergic reactions and some pose more serious health implications, such as formaldehyde and its causal link with cancer.[18] The use of "natural" preservatives has been advocated, including grapefruit seed extract (GSE).[44] Unfortunately, GSE can interact with medications due to its ability to inhibit CYP3A4, an important enzyme involved in drug metabolism.[45] Other natural preservatives include thymol, cinnamaldehyde, allyl isothiocyanate, citric acid, ascorbic acid and rosemary extract.[46,47] These natural preservatives inhibit microbial growth in vitro, but the few studies testing antimicrobial activity in food products have provided equivocal results.[46,48,49] Therefore, further studies to determine their efficacy, safety and toxicology are warranted before widespread use.