Butylparaben is in the paraben family of preservatives used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries. At one time, parabens were the most widely used group of preservatives in cosmetic products due to their gentle, non-sensitizing, and highly effective profile in comparison to other preservatives. 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.
Over the past 10 years, parabens have become criticized for use in cosmetics due to research that has revealed their potential relation to health concerns. The concern started when a 2004 study linked parabens in deodorant to breast cancer. 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. Overall, the cosmetics industry has determined that the low levels of parabens, including butylparaben, used in cosmetics and personal care products is safe, and the evidence linking parabens to breast cancer and other health concerns is insufficient.