Why Parabens In Lube Are Not Safe (And Options That Are)

Parabens in lube can potentially cause numerous health problems with serious consequences — including endocrine disruption and increased risk of cancer.
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Parabens are a type of chemical preservative sometimes found in personal lubricants and while the CDC has noted that health effects from low-level exposure are yet “unknown,” they’re generally best avoided.

Here’s why:

  • Parabens are thought to cause endocrine disruption — particularly to hormones relating to fertility and the reproductive organs because they have estrogenic effects — meaning that they mimic estrogen once absorbed into the body.
  • Multiple studies (including a recent one in 2022) have found potential links between paraben exposure and the development of breast cancer, citing that the findings warrant further investigation.
  • One type of breast cancer in particular — estrogen receptor (ER) positive — may have the potential to be fueled by parabens due to their estrogenic effects on the body.

While the FDA is still investigating the risks of parabens, studies have shown that they carry some potential dangers — the extent of which is not yet known.

For this reason, however, we recommend avoiding them when you’re selecting a personal lubricant.

Things To Know

Why Are Parabens Used In Lube?

Parabens” is a pretty broad name for an entire class of artificial preservatives often found in cosmetics and body care products (including personal lubricants).

Parabens might be listed on an ingredient label in a variety of different ways, including:

  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben

Used since the 1920s, parabens act as an antimicrobial and antifungal agent to increase the shelf life of products that can biodegrade over time, thus preserving them.

Technically speaking, a product without parabens might have a much shorter shelf life and could grow dangerous bacteria over time but as we’ll talk about in just a bit, their risks may outweigh their benefits.

Why Should Parabens Be Avoided In Lube?

Although the CDC says that the health effects of environmental exposure to parabens are unknown, studies have found that the health risks potentially associated with them are serious and go far beyond “mild” issues like disrupting pH levels or causing genital irritation.

Here’s what you need to know about parabens in lube:

Parabens are absorbed easily by the body and can mimic the hormone estrogen, disrupting hormonal balance and potentially causing reproductive issues in both men and women.

Reproductive problems caused by parabens may include:

  • Low sperm count
  • Ovarian damage
  • Prostate cancer

Studies have also shown how parabens can increase the growth of cancer cells, especially estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in women.

Additionally, although the Food & Drug Administration monitors many things, it doesn’t have any specific rules relating to parabens or their use in cosmetics.

Personal lubricants are not cosmetics, however, and must submit for FDA approval — specifically 510(k) clearance — because they are considered to be “Class II medical devices.”

That said, some lubricants are exempt from 501(k) clearance if they are marketed as “vaginal moisturizers” rather than personal lubricants.

The truth is that estrogen disruptive chemicals (EDCs) may have far-reaching effects on human health that are not fully realized — and for this reason, they are best avoided.

Paraben-Free Lube

Parabens may have been a common ingredient in many products for almost a century, but lube science has advanced and given us a plethora of options for paraben-free lubes.

In fact, every lubricant we have personally vetted, tested, and reviewed — including those that are water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based — is completely paraben-free.

We take your health as seriously as we take that of our own team and we’d never recommend a product we have not (or would not) use ourselves.

You can take a look at our favorites below:

→ For more, read: The Best Lube For Any Type Of Sex: Tested & Reviewed

What To Look For In A Paraben-Free Lube

Parabens come in many different forms, but thankfully the naming conventions of this type of chemical make them easy to spot and avoid.

There are many different kinds of parabens — such as propylparaben, methylparaben, and ethylparaben, among others.

Each type ends with the word “paraben”, so just look for that signifier if you are ever in doubt.

Just because a lube is free from parabens doesn’t mean it is the best option, however.

Look for lubes that are also free from glycerin or sugars (which can cause yeast infections), and other unsafe ingredients that can cause irritation.

A good rule of thumb is to find a lube with natural ingredients and as few of them as possible.

Top Paraben-Free Lube Recommendations

We have a list of the best lubricants for any type of sex here.

Every recommendation on our list is paraben-free as well as glycerin-free and tested to play well with your body’s natural biomes.

FAQs About Parabens In Lube

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to parabens in lube.

If Parabens Are Harmful, Why Did The FDA Approve Them?

They didn’t — and that’s the problem.

The FDA doesn’t have any special rules regarding parabens when it comes to personal care products.

The FDA states that it “will continue to evaluate new data in this area.”

Is Silicone Lube Paraben-Free?

Generally speaking, yes — because silicones are synthetic, silicone lube formulas do not require the use of preservatives to keep them fresh.

Is Water-Based Lube Paraben-Free?


Water-based lubes are often made using natural (and sometimes organic ingredients) that may incorporate the use of parabens as a preservative.

This is not true for ALL water-based lubes, however.

There are many paraben-free water-based lubes to choose from.

Are Parabens Cancerous?

On their own, no — but studies have shown that parabens may be linked to breast cancer and other reproductive cancers.

In Conclusion

Just because something has been around and used in personal care products for ages doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Parabens in lube can potentially cause numerous health problems with serious consequences — including endocrine disruption that affects reproductive health and increases the risk of certain types of cancer.

When you want to keep things wet and wild during sexy times, look for a personal lubricant that is paraben-free and ideally, glycerin-free, as well — like all of our top recommendations are.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Everything Lube hub, an in-depth and evolving resource that comprehensively explores all aspects of personal lubricants from the different types and how to use them, to ingredients and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

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