What are Parabens and Why They are Under Scrutiny

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Written by Joann Klinkner

Parabens have been the subject of much controversy because of possible links to breast cancer.

What are Parabens

What the heck is going on in the world of health and beauty aids (or, as I like to call them, HABAs)? Products labeled “paraben-free” are popping up all over the place. I’m not sure about you, but it makes me wonder how unhealthy parabens are if brands like Neutrogena ® are boasting a line of products that are paraben-free. What the heck are parabens?

Are Parabens a Chemical?

Simply put, parabens are a class of chemicals that act as preservatives in HABAs to prevent bacteria growth. Parabens have been used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies since the 1950s partly due to their efficacy and low cost, and partly due to the ineffectiveness of other more natural preservatives, such as grapefruit seed extract.


Parabens have been the subject of much controversy lately because of possible links to breast cancer. In research conducted in 2004 by British cancer researcher Philippa Darbre, Ph.D., parabens were found in low concentrations in 20 sampled malignant breast tumors, sparking the controversy that parabens contribute to the development of breast cancer.

However, healthy breast tissue was not tested for parabens. Though no concrete scientific evidence exists to directly link parabens with breast cancer, it is believed that the ability of some parabens to slightly mimic estrogen, a hormone which plays a key role in the development of breast cancer, might be a contributing factor in the development of breast cancer.

Young Girls and Puberty

Parabens have also recently come under scrutiny for contributing to the increasingly younger age at which girls are hitting puberty. Their ability to slightly mimic estrogen has been blamed for this. Again, there is currently no scientific evidence linking parabens to early puberty in girls.

All of this speculation leaves consumers wondering about the unknown. There is evidence of possible health hazards, but these theories have not been scientifically proven. What’s the bottom line? Parabens have been used as preservatives in products since the 1950s, so they have longevity of effectiveness.


The FDA and the WHO (World Health Organization) have deemed parabens safe for use at low levels. As a consumer, a woman, and/or a mother, it’s probably best to be mindful (but not obsessive) of the products you and your family are using and the amount of parabens in them until research proves on thing or the other.

Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

I’ve accepted that I might not achieve everything that I want in life, and that’s ok. I do the best that I can to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself, but some things may just be out of my control. All I can do is my best, and let the chips fall where they may. I’ve become pretty accepting of a lot of things in my old age (haha), so it’s hard to say what I’m still working on accepting.  

2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?

I appreciate my sense of self. Not many people can say they are 100%  comfortable with themselves, or that they truly know who they are. I know who I am at this moment, but I also recognize that my sense of self is always evolving, and I just kind of go with the flow and try to be my true self as often as possible.

3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? Tell us not only what makes YOU most proud but also share the  goals and dreams that you still have.

At the moment, I’m most proud of completing my 200-hour yoga teacher training and becoming an RYT-200 certified yoga instructor. I’m also extremely proud of myself for making a career move that was a bit risky. I left my job in advertising to go work for the local county library system, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was intimidating to leave the comfort of a job I had for 9 years, but the difference in my quality of life…it’s immeasurable.  

4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?

I might be the most forgetful person you’ve ever met. So, I know this about myself, and I also know the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, because my mom is the most forgetful person I know (next to myself). Truth, I chalk it up to genes, but really there are things I can do to improve my memory, I just get too lazy to put the effort in.  

5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”

I love my sense of gratitude. I wasn’t always a grateful person, but certain life experiences will really put things into perspective for you. Not a day goes by that I don’t count my blessings and realize that all I have in life is enough for me to feel fulfilled. After all, it’s not a happy person who is thankful, but rather a thankful person that is happy.  

About the author

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Joann Klinkner

Identity writer Joann DiFabio-Klinkner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ramapo College in Communication Arts and is currently employed at Torre Lazur McCann, a pharmaceutical advertising agency, where she is a digital imaging associate. Having a long-standing interest in health and wellness, Joann has developed a passion for and deep knowledge-base of food and nutrition over the years. She currently writes the Spotlight On… and Label Logic articles for Identity, and enjoys cooking in her free time.

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