What is the chemical structure of parabens

ParabensPreservatives Parabens are preservatives that are found in numerous cosmetics, medicines and foods. They have antimicrobial properties against bacteria and fungi and extend the life of the products. Chemically, they are various esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid, for example alkyl derivatives such as methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl paraben. Although parabens are generally considered safe and non-toxic, they have a bad reputation among consumers. Because parabens are weakly allergenic and hormonally active to a limited extent. That is why paraben-free products are increasingly being developed today. Products

Parabens are found in numerous pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and foods as auxiliaries or food additives.

Structure and properties

The parabens are ester derivatives of 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (= Para-Hydroxybenzoic acid). They are available as white, odorless and tasteless powders and are sparingly soluble in water. The water solubility decreases with the length of the side chain. Common parabens are alkyl derivatives such as:

Parabens are produced synthetically, but they also occur in nature. Salts are also used because of their poor solubility in water.


Parabens have preservative properties with a broad antimicrobial spectrum against bacteria and fungi. They have been used as preservatives to inhibit the growth of germs and to extend the life of the product since the 1930s. Mixtures of different parabens are also often used.

application areas

As a preservative for pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics.

unwanted effects

Parabens are approved by the authorities and are generally considered to be safe and harmless (GRAS). However, they are controversial substances that are assessed differently in the scientific literature and have a bad reputation among consumers. Parabens are acutely non-toxic, but can possibly cause long-term side effects. The two most important critical points are:

Because of these concerns, paraben-free products have been developed for some time and marketed accordingly ("paraben-free"). Genuine natural cosmetics and organic products, for example, are traditionally paraben-free.

see also

Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate

  • Cashman A.L., Warshaw E.M. Parabens: a review of epidemiology, structure, allergenicity, and hormonal properties. Dermatitis, 2005, 16 (2), 57-66 Pubmed
  • Castelain F., Castelain M. Parabens: a real hazard or a scare story? Eur J Dermatol, 2012, 22 (6), 723-7 Pubmed
  • Crinnion W.J. Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens. Altern Med Rev, 2010, 15 (3), 190-6 Pubmed
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Hafeez F., Maibach H. An overview of parabens and allergic contact dermatitis. Skin Therapy Lett, 2013, 18 (5), 5-7 Pubmed
  • Kirchhof M.G., de Gannes G.C. The health controversies of parabens. Skin Therapy Lett, 2013, 18 (2), 5-7 Pubmed
  • Soni M.G., Carabin I.G., Burdock G.A. Safety assessment of esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens). Food Chem Toxicol, 2005, 43 (7), 985-1015 Pubmed

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

Support PharmaWiki with a donation!

© PharmaWiki 2007-2021 - PharmaWiki provides independent and reliable information about medication and health.
This article was last changed on 1.9.2020.
Imprint and data protection declaration
Show products for this page