Why Is Methylparaben in Shampoo?

by Tarah Damask

According to AbsoluteAstronomy.com, methylparaben is a preservative found in most shampoos, face creams and even toothpaste, and is typically at the bottom of the ingredients list found on the back of the bottle. Methylparaben is in just about every kind of shampoo; whether you have dry or oily hair, and whether you buy drugstore or salon shampoo, that preservative is a likely ingredient.

Types

Methylparaben comes from a family of preservatives known as parabens. As defined by Absolute Astronomy, a paraben is a preservative used in cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals. You will often see methylparaben in a list of ingredients with one or more of its other related preservatives, such as ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Function

Methylparaben, like all preservatives, keeps a product from going bad. There are two main ways shampoo can spoil, Absolute Astronomy reports. Some shampoos contain natural ingredients that would spoil on their own; preservatives keep those ingredients fresh. The environment surrounding a shampoo bottles is the other factor in spoilage—mildew, mold and fungus grow best in moist, warm environments, like your shower. Once a bottle is open and exposed to open air, the website says, the environment inside and outside of the bottle is a breeding ground for bacteria. Parabens keep such bacteria at bay.

Significance

Fresh shampoo maintains your hair’s health. If your shampoo goes bad, you will have a useless product. Furthermore, if you use a spoiled shampoo, the potential for infection from fungus or bacteria is a potential health risk. Absolute Astronomy asserts that a product with methylparaben added maintains its original chemical complex and remains effective, thanks to methylparaben’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Origins

Methylparabens are produced naturally and synthetically. According to Absolute Astronoms, methylparabens are found in plants such as blueberries, where they keep bacteria from forming. However, the widely used methylparabens in cosmetics, including in shampoo are always synthetic. The methylparaben you see on the back of your shampoo bottle was artificially created in a lab.

Controversy

Methylparaben, like other parabens, are absorbed into the body through the skin. Absolute Astronomy reports that although the preservative is flushed out, and studies show it does not accumulate within the human body, there is still controversy over methylparaben. While parabens are widely accepted as being safe by most scientists, some consumer groups are pressing for more research, saying that parabens are linked to cancer and allergic reactions. If you are worried about possible health risks, look for a shampoo that is preservative-free or paraben-free.

About the Author

Tarah Damask's writing career began in 2003 and includes experience as a fashion writer/editor for Neiman Marcus, short fiction publications in "North Texas Review," a self-published novel, band biographies, charter school curriculum and articles for various websites. Damask holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of North Texas.