chemical information


Chemical Class:


Found in these people:

Erin Schrode, Anonymous Teen 9, Natalie Klapper, Laurie Mittelmann

Found in these locations:

Ross, CA; Washington, DC; San Francisco, CA; North Caldwell, NJ


Parabens are extremely common synthetic preservatives used in cosmetics and personal care products, and also in some foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. Parabens are absorbed rapidly through intact skin (CIR 2006). In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control detected benzylparaben in 39 of the 100 urine samples tested, indicating widespread exposure of Americans to this paraben compound (Ye 2006).

Parabens are known to trigger irritation and allergic reactions in the skin, especially damaged or broken skin (Schamberg 1967; Nagel 1977; Soni 2001, 2002; CIR 2006). Sensitization to benzylparaben has been observed in people with eczema (CIR 2006). Two-thirds of individuals allergic to one paraben compound demonstrate sensitivity to other parabens as well (CIR 2006).

Parabens are thought to mimic estrogen (Routledge 1998), causing concern that they may contribute to estrogen-stimulated breast cancers. Recent research indicates that doses of benzylparaben trigger growth responses in estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells, responses similar to those provoked by a potent form of estrogen known as estradiol (Darbre 2003). Injections of benzylparaben were also shown to increase the weight of the uterus in mice (Darbre 2003), a further indication of hormone-disrupting activity. The estrogenicity of benzylparaben appears to be greater because of its larger size, in comparison to smaller chemicals like methylparaben (Darbre 2003).

Citing a lack of safety data, the cosmetic industry's own ingredient review panel declared that the safety of this ingredient could not be documented or substantiated (CIR 2006). As a result, the panel could not conclude that benzylparaben is safe for use in cosmetic products.


Preservative widely used in cosmetics. Can trigger skin allergy and irritation, and may be linked to hormone disruption and breast cancer.

Benzylparaben has been found in 5 of the 28 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Other health concerns for Benzylparaben (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)possible

Results for Benzylparaben

in urine

Showing results from Dateline NBC Families, EWG Study #10, cosmetic chemicals in teens, Dateline NBC Families

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.0543 ug/g creatinine in urine
  • found in 5 of 28 people in the group
ug/g creatinine in urine 0.608

Benzylparaben results

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Skin sensitizerCIR (Cosmetics Ingredient Review). 2006. CIR Compendium, containing abstracts, discussions, and conclusions of CIR cosmetic ingredient safety assessments. Washington DC.