Parabens In Cosmetics: What Role Do They Play

You store your day cream in your warm bathroom. You bring your sun lotion to the beach. And you use your shower gel for several months after opening it. So that your face cream and sun lotion do not have to be stored in the refrigerator, most cosmetic products contain preservatives.

Parabens protect and are well-tolerated

Parabens are safe and tolerable preservatives that play an important role. Find out more about the background here.

Parabens protect and are well-tolerated

Water-based skin care products can spoil quickly.

Parabens protect and are well-tolerated

Products containing a lot of oil, like NIVEA Creme, often do not need preservatives.

Parabens protect and are well-tolerated

A classic preservative is alcohol – but unfortunately it can irritate sensitive skin.

What do parabens do?

Many products would quickly reach their best before date after opening if they did not contain preservatives. They would spoil within a short time. This is due to micro-organisms such as bacteria and mould that end up in the product via contact with your skin and easily multiply in water-based cosmetics. The result is that the products become contaminated, they can no longer achieve their full effect and they can cause illness. Parabens prevent cosmetic products from spoiling by killing off bacteria and mould. And this provides consumers with assurance. By using parabens, NIVEA can guarantee that the quality of its products is maintained over a long period.


Effective and well-tolerated

Parabens are particularly effective preservatives, which are also very well-tolerated. That’s why they are most frequently used worldwide, not only in protecting cosmetics but also in household products, pharmaceuticals and foods. And they’ve been used like this for over 80 years. NIVEA uses parabens in around 30 per cent of its products, primarily in body care, sun protection and face care products. Like all ingredients used by NIVEA, parabens are added only where it makes sense. The classic NIVEA Creme, for example, does not usually need any preservatives as its oily recipe protects it naturally from bacteria and mould. 

Parabens are constantly criticised by consumer protection bodies, the media and natural cosmetic producers. It is alleged that parabens are stored in the human body, disrupt the hormone system, cause cancer and limit our reproduction abilities. These fears have, however, proved unfounded. The European Commission and its scientific advisory committees, as well as the independent US assessment commission, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), have repeatedly confirmed that parabens pose no risk to our health. 

According to these studies, all parabens absorbed by our bodies are broken down quickly. Parabens are generally well-tolerated. Like all ingredients, they can trigger allergies in isolated cases, but this happens more rarely than with other preservatives.

Parabens give you the assurance that products will maintain their quality.

Preservatives are used only in the smallest quantities.

Hormonal effect?

Are parabens dangerous? The answer is an unequivocal “no”. 

It is true that in laboratory trials, many different ingredients have an effect similar to hormones – including parabens – but so do soya and other food products. This effect is, however, much smaller than the effect of many other natural oestrogens (there is a corresponding study here, for example). 

This does not mean that it produces a hormonal effect when using the product. Firstly, preservatives are only used in the smallest possible quantities. Secondly, products are usually only applied to the skin, and thirdly, parabens are rapidly broken down if, in spite of everything, tiny amounts end up in the body.

Throughout their long history of use, ingredients like parabens have always been tested by recognised experts. Parabens are safe according to the conclusions drawn by many scientific studies and the assessment of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the Stiftung Warentest.

Parabens are not always parabens

Parabens are safe and tolerable preservatives that play an important role. Even if they are often painted as being “dangerous chemicals”, parabens are found in nature and are used in such small quantities that no hormonal effects can be proven. Even though NIVEA very consciously uses parabens on account of their many advantages (good tolerability, highly researched, good effect), we also give our consumers the option of purchasing paraben-free products. After all, as an informed buyer, you should decide for yourself which product is best for you. Approximately 70% of NIVEA’s range does not contain parabens.

Parabens are safe and tolerable preservatives.