Parabens are a type of preservative. In Europe, four parabens have been approved for use in personal care products and fingerpaint. Use of a single product containing one of these parabens poses no health risk. Analysis by RIVM has now established that the use of multiple products containing the same paraben is also safe, at least for three of these parabens. Whether the same holds true for the fourth, butylparaben, is still unclear. RIVM recommends additional research.  

Longer shelf life

Parabens are chemicals that extend product shelf life. They are used in personal care products such as sunscreen and shampoo and in ‘aqueous’ toys such as clay, slime and fingerpaint. In Europe, four parabens are approved for use in personal care products and fingerpaint, namely: methyl-, ethyl-, propyl- and butylparaben. 

Use of multiple products containing same paraben safe

Parabens can be harmful. However, the level of parabens in individual products is too low to be harmful to health. A recent study by RIVM shows that using multiple products containing the same type of paraben side by side is also safe for humans. Overall exposure to each paraben remains low enough that there is no danger to health. The study was not able to extend this conclusion to butylparaben. This is because butylparaben can be harmful at a much lower exposures. Also unclear is what the health risks might be of using multiple products containing different types of parabens.

Possible endocrine disrupting effects 

Butylparaben is known to be an endocrine disruptor. It remains unclear if this is also true of the other parabens. Researchers in Europe are currently investigating this question. Depending on their findings, safety levels for other parabens may be lowered.

Additional research and information on parabens 

RIVM recommends doing further research into exposure to multiple butylparaben-containing products and the potential danger of exposure to a combination of different parabens. 

For more information about parabens, see the website: (in Dutch). It provides an overview of products that contain parabens and the possible health effects.