The parabens are a chemical family of esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid. These compounds are naturally present in many fruits and vegetables.
They have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and because of this are widely used as preservatives in industry for foods, drinks and cosmetics.
Biologically, the parabens had similar activity to oestrogens (female sex hormones) in mammals and a question has been raised as to their toxicity, particularly their influence on breast cancer. They have been said not to cause this.