Formaldehyde On Your Face? Most Likely

When you think of formaldehyde, it may conjure up images of frogs floating in jars from your high school biology classroom. The truth is, however, that many of your personal care products contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and you may not even know it. And believe me, that is creepy!

What Is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is used to prevent bacteria from growing in water-based products, particularly shampoo and liquid body soaps. But it can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin, and has been linked to skin allergies and cancer.

The use of formaldehyde in personal care products has been restricted by the European Union, Canada, Japan and Sweden, but not in the United States. Products including nail polishes, nail glues, eyelash glues, hair gels and hair-smoothers like the Brazilian Blowout, often contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are even found in baby shampoos, soaps and body washes.

The problem is that formaldehyde is widely known to cause allergic skin reactions in some people and is a known carcinogen—some research has even found a strong link between formaldehyde and Leukemia. In fact, the Environmental Working Group lists formaldehyde as a high health concern.

How Do I Find Formaldehyde-free Products?

Unfortunately, finding formaldehyde-free cosmetic products isn’t as easy as checking the label. Many products contain preservatives that slowly release formaldehyde over time—and have names like quaternium-15 and dimethyl-dimethyl—hard to pronounce, and hard to spot in the tiny print. Follow these tips to avoid formaldehyde in your daily routine:

  • Look for products like nail polish, eyelash glue and keratin treatments that specifically say they are formaldehyde free.
  • Check the labels of shampoos and body washes to see if they list formaldehyde, quaternium-15 (Q-15) or any of the other names for formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.
  • Check product-rating sites like Good Guide to choose products that get a good health rating.
  • Most importantly, vote with your dollars; if safe cosmetics are important to you, make the switch to natural beauty products.