Skingredient: Formaldehyde Releasing Agents

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing ingredients are a frequent source of skin allergies

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Hannah Yan

What are Formaldehyde Releasing Agents?

Formaldehyde-releasing agents are chemical compounds that slowly release formaldehyde. They are formulated in a number of cosmetics and hair-care products. Common formaldehyde releasing agents include:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Quaternium-15
  • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
  • 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

 

What Do Formaldehyde Releasing Agents Do?

Formaldehyde is used as an antimicrobial agent, so formaldehyde-releasing agents are often used in skin care products as preservatives.[1] Below is a table of the formaldehyde releasing agents and their functions.

Formaldehyde-Releasing Agent

Function

DMDM hydantoin

Preservative

Imidazolidinyl urea

Preservative

Diazolidinyl urea

Preservative

Quaternium-15

Preservative

Bronopol

Preservative

5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane

Preservative

Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

Preservative

Hair conditioning

 

Potential Side Effects of Formaldehyde Releasing Agents

  • Formaldehyde-releasing agents can cause allergic contact dermatitis[2,3]

Most formaldehyde-releasing agents are considered safe for use in cosmetic products in certain amounts.

Formaldehyde-Releasing Agent

Maximum Safety Concentration

DMDM hydantoin

0.2%[4]

Imidazolidinyl urea

0.6%[5]

Diazolidinyl urea

0.5%[4]

Quaternium-15

0.2%[6]

2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol

0.1% except when it can result in the formation of the carcinogens nitrosamines or nitrosamides[7]

5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane

0.1% except when it can result in the formation of the carcinogens nitrosamines or nitrosamides[8]

Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

0.5%[9]

 

Practical Tips for Formaldehyde Releasing Agents

Those with sensitive skin or allergies to formaldehyde should take caution when using products containing formaldehyde releasing agents.

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.

See additional information.

References

  1. McDonnell G, Russell AD. Antiseptics and disinfectants: activity, action, and resistance. Clin Microbiol Rev.1999;12(1):147-179; PMID: 9880479 Link to research.
  2. de Groot A, White IR, Flyvholm MA, et al. Formaldehyde-releasers in cosmetics: relationship to formaldehyde contact allergy. Part 2. Patch test relationship to formaldehyde contact allergy, experimental provocation tests, amount of formaldehyde released, and assessment of risk to consumers allergic to formaldehyde. Contact Dermatitis.2010;62(1):18-31; PMID: 20136876 Link to research.
  3. Krecisz B, Chomiczewska-Skora D, Kiec-Swierczynska M. [Preservatives as important etiologic factors of allergic contact dermatitis]. Med Pr.2015;66(3):327-332; PMID: 26325045 Link to research.
  4. Annual Review of Cosmetic Ingredient Safety Assessments: 2005/2006. International Journal of Toxicology.2008;27:77-142; Link to research.
  5. Annual Review of Cosmetic Ingredient Safety Assessments -- 2001/2002. International Journal of Toxicology.2003;22:1-35; Link to research.
  6. Fiume M, Heldreth B. 40th Anniversary Overview and Rereview Summaries From 2011 to 2015. International Journal of Toxicology.2017;36:14-58; Link to research.
  7. Annual Review of Cosmetic Ingredient Safety Assessments -- 2004/2005. International Journal of Toxicology.2006;25:1-89; Link to research.
  8. Andersen FA. Annual Review of Cosmetic Ingredient Safety Assessments: 2007-2010. International Journal of Toxicology.2011;30:73-127; Link to research.
  9. Evaluation and Opinion On: The Determination of Certain Formaldehyde Releasers in Cosmetic Products. The Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products Intended for Consumers;2002.