Should You Be Using Butylparaben? - The Dermatology Review

Should You Be Using Butylparaben?



What Is Butylparaben?

Butylparaben is a type of paraben. Parabens are a class of chemicals that are used to preserve your skincare and cosmetic products to make them last and prevent the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and mold. In recent years there has been controversy around the use of parabens, particularly in the clean beauty world due to their link to sensitivity and the potential for parabens to mimic hormones in the body.  There have been a handful of studies that have presented this correlation; the evidence isn’t strong enough for the FDA or Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel to recommend discontinuing its use in products. This is also the case in the EU, where skincare and body care ingredients are highly regulated. 

Butylparaben is synthetically made for use in skincare and cosmetic formulations; however, this ingredient does naturally occur in some fruits and vegetables, such as barley, flaxseed, and grapes.

 Parabens are found in plants in the form of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA), a chemical that breaks down to become parabens in order to protect the plant. In fact, the parabens used in cosmetics are identical to those found in nature. Studies have found that if parabens are absorbed through the skin, the human body can quickly metabolize them to PHBA and eliminate them.

At one time, parabens were the most widely used group of preservatives in cosmetic products. Parabens were popular because of their gentle, non-sensitizing, and highly effective profile in comparison to other preservatives. However, the use of parabens has decreased significantly since the controversy around the  alleged relation to health concerns.


the good:Butylparaben prevents the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds in your skincare and cosmetic formulations. It helps to increase the shelf life and stabilize the product.

the not so good:Parabens have a bad reputation in the beauty industry, despite this reputation is mostly undeserved.

Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.

Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients.

Keep an eye on: Look out for butylparaben’s other names such as; sodium salt, butyl ester, and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid.

What Are the Benefits of Having Butylparaben in Formulations?

Butylparaben functions as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products. In most formulations, parabens are used at very low levels ranging from 0.01 to 0.3%. The use of preservatives is necessary to prevent microbial contamination, as well as to prevent degradation by environmental factors such as heat, light, and air.

Cosmetics and skincare have a high potential for microbial contamination and growth. The most susceptible products are creams and lotions that are packaged in jars, opened frequently, and applied to the skin with the fingers. Inadvertent contamination may also occur after the use of makeup brushes around the eyes or other parts of the face that touch the skin and the cosmetic repeatedly. Each use increases the chance of contamination. Furthermore, contamination may occur if the consumer leaves a product container open for an extended period of time.

Another major cause of product contamination is storage conditions. Since the majority of products are stored at room temperature, the warm temperature can stimulate the growth of microorganisms. Plus, the ingredients used in cosmetic formulations, such as water, oils, peptides, and carbohydrates, create the perfect environment for microorganism growth.

Microbial contamination can lead to significant health problems, from skin irritation to infections. To avoid these problems, a strong yet non-irritating preservative must be added to the formulation of a product. Butylparaben fits both of these criteria.

Does Butylparaben Cause Allergies?

Parabens have previously been linked to some irritation and sensitivity, particularly in sensitive or irritated skin. Healthline suggests that some people have reported allergies to methylparaben specifically but that it may be generalized in this group of skincare ingredients. It is generally recommended that sensitive skin types such as those prone to eczema or dermatitis avoid products containing this ingredient. 

What Are The Side Effects of Butylparaben?

There have been a few studies that have suggested a link between parabens, particularly butylparaben and hormone disruption. This has potential implications for hormone-related cancers such as breast cancers. However, it is essential to note that the current research is quite limited, with only a handful of studies presenting this potential. These studies don’t suggest a strong link and butylparaben is still considered safe by the FDA, Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, and under EU legislation

Is Butylparaben Safe?

Over the past 10 years, parabens have become criticized for use in cosmetics due to research that has revealed their potential in relation to health concerns. However, the research on parabens is conflicting and polarizing.

The concern started when a 2004 study linked parabens in deodorant to breast cancer. This link seemed plausible since parabens can mimic human estrogen and it is known that high estrogen levels stimulate the growth of cancer cells. However, the study has since been discredited and the American Cancer Society has concluded that there is insufficient scientific evidence of parabens increasing breast cancer risk. Furthermore, a 2005 study published in the journal Critical Reviews of Toxicology concluded that “it is biologically implausible that parabens could increase the risk of any estrogen-mediated endpoint, including effects on the male reproductive tract or breast cancer.”

Other research indicates that parabens are safe as used in cosmetics and preferred since they are gentle, non-sensitizing, and highly effective. Furthermore, these studies have demonstrated that parabens did not have any effect when compared to natural hormones in the body. In fact, parabens were found to be beneficial due to their ability to deter the growth of mold, fungi, and other harmful pathogens.

Overall, the cosmetics industry has determined that the low levels of parabens used in cosmetic products are safe. The FDA finds that while parabens can mimic estrogen, the actual effects of this low level of activity on the body do not cause cancer in a higher incidence than naturally occurring estrogen. Given the controversial nature of these ingredients, there has been a respectable about of research into their safety. Given this controversy some jurisdictions have limited their use to low concentrations, for example in the EU, the use of butylparaben is limited to 0.4%. It is generally considered that longer chain parabens such as propylparaben or isobutylparaben are more likely to be disruptive in the body. The main parabens that are used in skincare and cosmetic formulations are usually of the smaller variety. Research into parabens as a class of ingredients is being continued and updated regularly. 

Cosmetic Ingredient Review, 1984. ‘Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, and Buylparaben’, Journal of the American College of Toxicology, vol. 3, no.5.
Engeli, R, Rohrer, S, Vuorinen, A, Herdlinger, S, Kaserer, T, Leugger, S, Schuster, D, & Odermatt, A, 2017. ‘Interference of Paraben Compounds with Estrogen Metabolism by Inhibition of 17β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases’, International Journal of Molecular
Hu, P, et al. 2017. ‘Methylparaben and butylparaben alter multipotent mesenchymal stem cell fates towards adipocyte lineage’, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, vol. 15, is. 329, pp. 48-57.
Matwiejczuk, N, Galicka, A & Brzóska, M, 2020. ‘Review of the safety of application of cosmetic products containing parabens’, Journal of Applied Toxicology, vol.40, is.1.


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