8. November 2021
Pregnancy: skin care without parabens

When pregnant women use skin creams and lotions containing parabens, their babies are at greater risk of developing atopic dermatitis. Pregnant women should avoid cosmetics with parabens.

The use of parabens as preservatives in cosmetics has been controversial for years. There are several reasons behind the debate. One of the main problems is that in higher concentrations, they mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen. It was also known that parabens affect children if their mothers used creams containing parabens during pregnancy: Only in 2020 did researchers in Leipzig discover that if mothers absorb parabens through their skin while pregnant, it can lead to obesity in their children.

The more recent finding is that parabens can also lead to atopic dermatitis in children when their mothers have used creams containing parabens during pregnancy.

What was the study about?

The team led by Loreen Thümann and Irina Lehmann from Charité in Berlin investigated whether more children develop atopic dermatitis if their mothers used creams containing parabens during pregnancy.
Parabens protect the creams or lotions from germs and allow them to last as long as possible. These preservatives include methyl, ethyl, propyl, isopropyl, butyl, isobutyl, pentyl and phenyl paraben. If a cream contains one of these substances, it must be labelled on the packaging.

How did the researchers conduct their study?

The team used data from the LINA long-term study. For the LINA study, 629 mothers and their newborn children were selected in the Leipzig area between 2006 and 2008; the mothers underwent specific examinations and were questioned in a standardised survey. In these questionnaires, the participants provided information about the cosmetic products they had used during pregnancy. In addition, women in the 34th week of pregnancy had their urine tested for various parabens.

The children were then monitored up to the age of eight. Accurate data were available for 261 participants about whether they had developed atopic dermatitis and, if so, how severe it was.

What are the new findings?

Nearly 17 per cent of children developed atopic dermatitis during the first two years of life. In five per cent it disappeared by itself, but in 12 per cent the atopic dermatitis remained.
An additional 12 per cent of the patients were diagnosed with atopic dermatitis after age two, and just over three percent after age six.

The key finding was that for mothers who had elevated levels of ethyl paraben or n-butyl paraben during pregnancy, the risk of atopic dermatitis before the second year of age was increased in their children, who tended to develop the chronic form of atopic dermatitis. This was especially true for children whose mothers did not have atopic dermatitis. The risk was independent of the child’s gender.

Why is this important?

Parabens in pregnancy are a risk factor for the development of atopic dermatitis in children. This is why cosmetics containing parabens should be avoided during pregnancy.



Thürmann L et al. Prenatal paraben exposure and atopic dermatitis-related outcomes among children.
Allergy. 2021;76:3122–32

Additional sources

Halla N et al. Cosmetics preservation: a review on present strategies.
Molecules. 2018;23(7):1571

Hufe S. Übergewicht durch Kosmetik / Nutzen Schwangere parabenhaltige Cremes, kann das Folgen haben (Obesity triggered by cosmetics/Use of creams containing parabens by pregnant women may have consequences). Press release from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ), 12 February 2020. Last retrieved on 26 October 2021. (In German)

Leppert B. Maternal paraben exposure triggers childhood overweight development. Nature Communications 2020;11:561