Is there formaldehyde in my skin and beauty products?

A client gets a hair-straightening treatment known as the Brazilian Blowout. High levels of formaldehyde used in the original treatment has caused concern, both for stylists and their clients.

A client gets a hair-straightening treatment known as the Brazilian Blowout. High levels of formaldehyde used in the original treatment has caused concern, both for stylists and their clients.

AP file

Most people know formaldehyde as a chemical commonly found in cigarettes, some building materials and used as an embalming fluid.

What you might not know is that this colorless chemical compound could also be lurking in your beauty and skin care products.

See how formaldehyde can affect your skin, how to spot it on an ingredient label and which formaldehyde-free skin care products are my favorites.

What is formaldehyde and why is it used in skin care?

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring gas that consists of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. Because of its effectiveness as a preservative, liquid formaldehyde is used in a variety of products, including some skin and beauty items.

When inhaled in its gaseous form, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can cause a number of adverse health effects.

As more information has become available about the risks of using formaldehyde in personal care products, some big brands have stopped using this ingredient as a preservative in their products. However, many others continue to use it.

The European Union has banned formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in skin and beauty products.

Formaldehyde and skin allergy

In both its gaseous and liquid form, formaldehyde is a known skin allergen and can cause contact dermatitis even at low-exposure levels.

If you are struggling with a skin allergy, consider checking your products for formaldehyde-containing and formaldehyde-releasing ingredients, many of which are included in this list from the Environmental Working Group:

DMDM hydantoin

Imidazolidinyl urea

Diazolidinyl urea

Quaternium-15

Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol )

5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane

Hydroxymethylglycinate

Formaldehyde can also be found in nail polish, eyelash glues, soaps, hair products, shampoos, lotions and many other personal care products. So be sure to check the ingredient lists on all of the products in your daily routine if you think formaldehyde could be at the root of your skin allergy.

How to find formaldehyde-free skin care products

There are plenty of formaldehyde-free skin care products out there — you just have to sift through ingredient labels. Avoid the ingredients listed above when choosing new skin care products. If you’re not sure about a particular product, ask your dermatologist for formaldehyde-free recommendations for your skin type.

For more skincare tips and tricks, be sure to follow Baumann Cosmetic on YouTube, or follow @BaumannCosmetic on Instagram or Facebook.

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