Methylparaben - The Dermatology Review




What Is Methylparaben?

Methylparaben is a type of paraben. Parabens are a class of chemicals that are used to preserve products to make them last and prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. 

There has been recent controversy around parabens, particularly in the clean beauty world due to their link to sensitivity and the potential for methylparaben to mimic estrogen. While there is some evidence that supports these claims, the evidence is not strong enough to reevaluate its approval for skincare and body care products. 

A handful of studies have supported the claim that methylparaben may produce estrogen mimicking in the body. These studies look at this effect in specific research contexts. The current evidence isn’t strong enough for the FDA or Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel to recommend discontinuing its use in products. This is also the case in the EU, where skincare and body care ingredients are highly regulated. The scientific consensus on parabens is that they are safe for their indicated uses. 

Methylparaben may be responsible for sensitivity and irritation in some people. It is generally recommended that people with allergic skin types or those who are prone to eczema or dermatitis avoid products with methylparaben. 

Methylparaben is synthetically made for use in skincare products; however, the molecule does occur naturally in some fruits, most notably in blueberries. While methylparaben’s most common use is in skincare and cosmetics, it is also occasionally used as a food preservative and in alcohol additives and wine. 

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the good:Methylparaben works as a great preserving agent that allows products to increase their shelf life. Methylparaben has an antifungal, antibacterial effect on the formulation, preventing the growth of microbes in your product

the not so good:It has been linked through studies to irritation and has been suggested to mimic the estrogen, potentially creating hormonal disruption. The research on this claim is not strong enough to create a correlation.

Who is it for?Most skin types. Sensitive skin types may want to avoid this ingredient, given the links to allergic reactions and contact dermatitis.

Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients as it doesn’t act to improve the appearance of the skin.

Keep an eye on:Alternative names for methylparaben such as; 4-hydroxy methyl ester benzoic acid, benzoic acid, and methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate.

What Are The Uses of Methylparaben in Skincare?

Methylparaben’s primary use is as a preserving agent. Parabens as a class of chemicals have a broad spectrum in their antimicrobial effects, working against molds, yeasts, and bacteria. This activity generally becomes more potent as the length of the alkyl chain increases. An alkyl chain is a long string of carbon and hydrogen atoms. In the case of methylparaben the chain length is only three carbon atoms long, making it a mild paraben with moderate antimicrobial activity. 


Does Methylparaben Cause Allergies?

Methylparaben has been linked to topical allergic reactions and irritation, particularly in sensitive skin types. Healthline suggests that some people have reported allergies to methylparaben specifically. It is generally recommended that sensitive skin types such as those prone to eczema or dermatitis avoid products containing this ingredient. 

Is Methylparaben Safe?

Some research suggests that methylparaben may be an endocrine disruptor, mimicking estrogen in the body. This has potential implications for hormone-related cancers such as breast cancers. However, it is essential to note that the current research is quite limited, with only a handful of studies presenting this potential. These studies don’t suggest a strong link and methylparaben is still considered safe by the FDA, Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, and under EU legislation. Due to the controversial nature of these ingredients, there has been a significant amount of research into their use and this research has suggested that they are safe for their indicated uses. 

Methylparaben is restricted to low concentrations in products. For example, in the EU, the use of methylparaben is limited to 0.4%.  Generally, longer chain parabens such as propylparaben or isobutylparaben tend to be more controversial and potentially more disruptive to the body. Given research has suggested that many skincare or personal care products contain a mix of different parabens to create a stable and long-lasting product, hypersensitive skin types may benefit from avoiding this class of ingredients all together. Research into parabens as a class of ingredients is being continued and updated regularly. 

Other Uses: 

Methylparaben is used as a preservative in skincare and personal care products but it is also used as a food preservative under the name E218.  

References: Engeli, R et al., 2007. ‘Interference of Paraben Compounds with Estrogen Metabolism by Inhibition of 17 β– Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases’, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol.18, is.9.
Crovetto, S, Moreno, E, Dib, A, Espirgares, M & Espirgares, E, 2017. ‘Bacterial toxicity testing and antibacterial activity of parabens’, Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, vol. 99, is. 5-6, pp 858, 868.
Osuna, M et al., 2016. ‘Methylparaben stimulates tumor-initiating cells in ER+ breast cancer models’, Journal of Applied Toxicology, vol. 37, is. 4, pp 417-425.
Liu et al., 2019. ‘Parabens exposure in early pregnancy and gestational diabetes mellitus’, Environment International, vol. 126, pp. 468-475.
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, 2012. ‘Parabens’, Cosmetic Ingredient Review.


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