Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating What type of paraben should I use? Methyl or Propyl or mix?

  • What type of paraben should I use? Methyl or Propyl or mix?

    Posted by Adi on October 16, 2015 at 9:15 am


    I’m starting a hair product line, which consist 35% water phase and 65% oil phase. I’ve been recommended to blend methyl- and propylparaben as preservative. Do I actually need both types of paraben or would one type be effective enough? 
    And can anyone recommend which type of paraben is the more effective one?
    Thanks in advance!
    Adi replied 8 years, 6 months ago 8 Members · 12 Replies
  • 12 Replies
  • David

    October 16, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    If you are anyway ok with parabenes - use a mixture. - make sure it is legal where you are located though.

  • belassi

    October 16, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Use 70/30 methyl/propyl. The propyl is harder to dissolve in my experience.

  • Bill_Toge

    October 18, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    methyl goes in the water phase, and propyl goes in the oil phase; between them, they offer protection for the whole formula

    a word of warning: if you’re using ethoxylated emulsifiers (steareth-21, oleth-5 etc.) there is a real chance that one or both of your parabens will crash out of solution and crystallise

  • Bobzchemist

    October 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Each paraben is effective against a different range of organisms. Using just one is asking for trouble. Your best bet is to use a pre-made mixture.

  • luiscuevasii

    October 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    @Bill_toge  Thanks for you advice, have you expericed any cristalization trouble with parabens and Tweens ?, 

  • MichelleReece

    October 21, 2015 at 12:13 am


    Tween 80 & 20 can deactivate parabens. Other nonionic emulsifiers, such as ceteareth-20, may also deactivate parabens.

    You also want to be careful with celluose and its derivatives, because they too can interfere/deactivate parabens.

  • luiscuevasii

    October 21, 2015 at 5:11 am

    thanks you very much @michellereece  

  • Bobzchemist

    October 21, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    @luiscuevasii, you need to understand what’s going on with paraben deactivation, though. It’s not a catalytic reaction, or some kind of unknown activity where a tiny bit of emulsifier or cellulose deactivates all the parabens. If you want to use parabens and non-ionic emulsifiers/cellulosics together, you can do that - you just have to use more of the parabens - enough so that you overwhelm the deactivation. 

    What we do is commercial formulation, though, and adding more parabens costs more money - usually enough money that other types of preservatives become more cost effective in a formula containing those deactivators. So, as a general rule, we don’t combine them in the same formulations.
  • Adi

    November 27, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for all your advice, really apprecate it.

     I tried using methyl paraben in water phase and propyl paraben in oil phase. For each type of paraben, I used less than 1% of total weight (oil + water phase), so total paraben is about 2% of total product weight. However my product only last for about 2-3 weeks..

    I don’t cook up my water phase because I’m still trying in small batches, so what I do is I use a precook water and mix it with methyl paraben.
    I’m using soya lecithin as my emulsifier.
    Is there anything I did wrong? Or do I need to increase my paraben?
    Thanks in advance!

  • AuroraBorealis

    November 27, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Whoa. That’s a looot of parabens. Typical use levels are from 0.05 to 0.2 ish. 

  • Bobzchemist

    November 27, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    If I were you, I’d use Euxyl K-300 (Phenonip, EK 300)



    Using a mix like this means not having to mess with separate preservatives. Since you’ve had trouble with preservation, I’d suggest a 1% use level.
  • Adi

    November 30, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Thanks @Bobzchemist for your recommendation.

    I’m getting Phenonip, hopefully it will solve my preservation problem as my ingredients are wax, oils, butter, and water.

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