What are Parabens?

By Dr. Eddie Valenzuela

Parabens, short for “p-hydroxybenzoic acid,” is a preservative. Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and industrial products [1]. As mentioned in the article on phenoxyethanol (link to the other article on phenoxyethanol) a preservative prevents spoilage of a product sold to consumers. Parabens have been around since the 1950s. Four variation of this molecule are commonly used: methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl parabens. They can be used alone, but they tend to get mixed together because the work better that way [2].

An abbreviated history of Parabens

At some point in the early 2000s people became concerned that parabens was what is referred to as an “endocrine disruptor” and it fell out of favor. There was also concern that parabens causes an allergic reaction on the skin.

People worried that this preservative could be absorbed into tissues and change the way the body’s hormones work. However, at the low percentage that parabens is found in cosmetics, the Expert Panel of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an internationally respected group of scientists, still attests that this preservative ingredient is safe. The expert panel composed of dermatologists and toxicologists looked at male reproductive toxicity and various estrogenic activity studies to make this determination [3].

In regards to skin allergy, the International Journal of Toxicology says, parabens are not irritating to skin and parabens do not “sensitize” the population with normal skin [3].

Quick explainer: Being “sensitized” means that when exposed to an allergen one can have an allergic reaction whereas before you were “sensitized,” when exposed to the allergen no reaction happened. Some sources feel very strongly about parabens not being an irritant.

The authors of the journal Dermatitis in 2019 actually voted the paraben mix as the (non) allergen of the year [4]!

However, despite such fanfare, paraben sensitization has occurred and continues to be reported in small numbers, but principally when exposure involves damaged or broken skin [3].

Why is Happy Cappy Paraben Free?

We have chosen to keep our products Paraben free to ensure we provide the safest seborrheic dermatitis shampoo for kids and avoid ingredients that could possibly harm sensitive skin.  Our Daily kids shampoo for Eczema is also free of parabens and provides a safe daily moisturizing wash for kids suffering the symptoms of eczema.


  1. Hafeez F, Maibach H. An overview of parabens and allergic contact dermatitis. Skin Therapy Lett. 2013 Jul-Aug;18(5):5-7.
  2. Castelain F, Castelain M. Parabens: a real hazard or a scare story? Eur J Dermatol. 2012 Nov-Dec;22(6):723-7. doi: 10.1684/ejd.2012.1835.
  3. Final amended report on the safety assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Benzylparaben as used in cosmetic products. Int J Toxicol. 2008;27 Suppl 4:1-82. doi: 10.1080/10915810802548359.
  4. Fransway AF, et. al. Dermatitis. 2019 Jan/Feb;30(1):3-31. doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000429.