Parabens (alkyl esters of 4-hydroxybenzoic acid) are widely used as preservatives in drugs, cosmetic products, and foodstuffs. Safety concerns have recently increased due to the potential health risks associated to exposure to large amounts of these substances. Biotransformation of parabens mainly includes hydrolysis of the ester bond and glucuronidation reactions. The hydrolysis and glucuronidation of a series of six parabens differing by the nature of the alkyl group were investigated in human liver microsomes and plasma, and the major human UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) isoforms involved in the reaction were identified. Methyl- and ethylparaben were stable in human plasma, with 95% of the initial concentration remaining after 24 h. On the other hand, propyl-, butyl- and benzylparaben concentrations decreased by 50% under similar conditions. In contrast, rapid hydrolysis was measured with human liver microsomes depending on the alkyl chain length, with t1/2 varying from 22 min for methylparaben to 87 min for butylparaben. All parabens were actively glucuronidated by liver microsomes, in comparison to 4-hydroxybenzoic acid. They were mainly substrates of human recombinant UGT1A1, UGT1A8, UGT1A9, UGT2B7, UGT2B15 and UGT2B17. In conclusion, the parabens were readily metabolized in human liver through esterase hydrolysis and glucuronidation by several UGT isoforms. These results suggest that these parabens do not accumulate in human tissue.