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Chemicals in Cosmetics: Formaldehyde Releasers

09 Apr

April 9, 2011 – Today there is so much talk about chemicals in cosmetics, personal care products and baby products, but how are consumers to know what is safe and what isn’t? According to Tamara Laschinsky, owner of Natural e GREEN and author of ‘The Cosmetic Chemicals Guide’, understanding the chemical ingredients, their health risks and alternate names is  a good start to safer product selection.

Common Chemical in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products: Formaldehyde Releasers

For the most part, formaldehyde in Canadian products, may not exceed 0.2% concentration. Nail hardeners may contain up to 5% concentration. In the European Union, any product that exceed 0.05% must carry the label “contains formaldehyde“.

Often, though, formaldehyde is not added as a direct ingredient, but shows up as a by-product. There are no regulations in place that set restrictions when formaldehyde shows up as a by-product.

What is Formaldehyde and Why is it Dangerous to Human Health?

Photo: Dangers of Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment and is a preservative, used to prevent bacteria growth. Is it a known human carcinogen and also causes:

  • Skin irritation and burns
  • Respiratory hazards
  • Immune system toxicant
  • Cardiovascular hazard
  • Neurotoxic effects
  • Environmental toxin

    Photo: Randomtruth with permission

What Products Contain Formaldehyde Releasing Ingredients?

Formaldehyde releasing ingredients can appear in most any products including:

  • Baby bath products
  • Adult bath products
  • Hair Care
  • Cosmetics
  • Diaper Wipes
  • Lotions
  • Sunscreens

How Can you Tell if Your Product Contains Formaldehyde Releasing Ingredients

There are a few names to look for on your product label to see if formaldehyde is present: Formalin, Oxomethane, Formica, BFV, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolindinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, Methenamine, Quaternium-15, 1 3 Dimethylol and more.

If you are concerned you should consider picking up a copy of The Cosmetic Chemicals Guide to use as quick reference when you are out shopping.

Brazilian Blowout Hair Care Had High Levels of Formldehyde

In October 2010, Brazilian Blowout, a hair straightening product, received global news coverage, when it was found the formula contained up to 10.6 % formaldehyde. According to regulations, salon workers must be notified if any product contains higher than 0.1% formaldehyde.

When Health Canada tested the formula, after receiving many consumer complaints, they found Brazilian Blowout actually contained 12% concentration of formaldehyde. It was banned from entering Canada.

Despite the dangers, some salons were still offering the treatment and offering it @ discounted rates (obviously trying to sell out their useless stock.) Salon workers are always encouraged to wear mask and goggles, since no product can be guaranteed to not contain formaldehyde.

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