Parabens are used as antimicrobial preservatives in consumer products. Exposure to methylparaben (MP) has been associated with adverse health outcomes, therefore, an alternative compound, 1,2-hexanediol (1,2-H), has been applied for cosmetics. In the present study, the phototoxicity of MP and 1,2-H, as well as the toxic effect caused by chronic exposure, were investigated using Daphnia magna. The 48 h acute toxicity tests with D. magna were conducted under indoor or ultraviolet (UV) light irradiation conditions, i.e., exposure to 4 h/d sunlight. Changes in the transcription of genes related to oxidative stress were determined in D. magna juveniles, to investigate the underlying mechanism of phototoxicity. The 21 d chronic toxicity tests of MP and 1,2-H were performed under indoor light irradiation. Exposure to MP under environmental level of UV light was more detrimental to D. magna. Transcripts of catalase and glutathione-S-transferase genes in D. magna was significantly increased by co-exposure to MP and UV light. After 21 d of chronic exposure to MP and 1,2-H, the reproduction no-observed effect concentrations for D. magna were 1 and >10 mg/L, respectively. The present study showed that exposure to UV could magnify the toxicity of MP on daphnids. Although acute and chronic toxicities of 1,2-H were generally lower than those of MP, its effects on other aquatic organisms should not be ignored. Further studies are needed to identify other mechanisms of MP phototoxicity.