‘Parabens’ is the collective name for a number of substances that are regulated as preservatives in entry 12 of Annex V to Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 on cosmetic products, as amended.
Preservatives are important in cosmetics as they protect consumers from harmful pathogens that would otherwise invade the cosmetic products, such as creams, that people use on a daily basis. Without preservatives the majority of cosmetics would have a very short shelf life and would, for the most part, have to be stored in a fridge.
Changes in Regulations
The European Commission has taken a decision to ban isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben and pentylparaben from cosmetic products. Therefore, effective from July 2015, no cosmetic products containing these parabens are allowed on the market.
The use of butylparaben and propylparaben as preservatives in finished cosmetic products is deemed safe to the consumer, as long as their individual concentrations do not exceed 0.19% (as esters). Butylparaben and propylparaben will, however, be banned from leave-on cosmetic products designed for application on the nappy area of children below three years of age and the timelines for implementation are as follows:
- April 2015 - cosmetic products designed for application on the nappy area of children below three years containing any of these substances are not allowed to be placed on the market.
- October 2015 - cosmetic products designed for application on the nappy area of children below three years of age containing any of these substances are not allowed on the market.
The HPRA strongly advises anyone who experiences any undesirable effects relating to a cosmetic product, to stop using the product immediately. These effects will normally disappear but if they persist or you are concerned, you should report these to your healthcare professional. You should also report the effects to the responsible person (whose contact details are on the product packaging) and to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The HPRA advises consumers to purchase cosmetic products through reputable sources only. In addition, consumers are advised of the following:
- to ensure that the product is labelled with a European address;
- to pay attention to the product information and directions for use;
- if you have a known allergy or sensitisation to an ingredient, read the list of ingredients where this information will be available.
Further information on the regulation of cosmetic products is available from the Cosmetics section of our website.