With everyone becoming more concerned about the ingredients found in their beauty and skincare products, Formaldehyde has come under scrutiny.
Often used as a preservative in beauty products, Formaldehyde has been earmarked as a harsh chemical when used on the skin.
The question of how concerned we should be about the use of Formaldehyde in beauty products and if it can be avoided as a whole thus arises.
Here is all you need to know about Formaldehyde in beauty products:
What Is Formaldehyde?
Contrary to what you may think, Formaldehyde is not a synthetic compound made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Instead, it is actually a naturally occurring compound in the human body, fruits, and vegetables.
Formaldehyde exists as a gas in the human body and does not accumulate as it is converted to carbon (IV) oxide and exhaled.
Formaldehyde is present as gas all around us. It is a byproduct of combustion. Burning tobacco, wood, gasoline, kerosene, and natural gas can release Formaldehyde into the environment. While Formaldehyde is originally naturally occurring, it can also be made synthetically through the catalytic oxidation of methanol in scientific laboratories.
What Beauty Products Contain Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde’s primary purpose in beauty products is to prevent contamination by bacteria during storage and while in use.
However, it is not always listed on the ingredients of many beauty products as “formaldehyde”. Depending on what beauty product it is used in, Formaldehyde can appear as formalin; in this case, formalin is simply the diluted or water solution of Formaldehyde.
Another common way formaldehyde is used in beauty products is through the use of formaldehyde releasers. These chemicals decompose slowly as time goes by to form molecules of Formaldehyde.
This causes a fixed amount of Formaldehyde to be in the product at a given time. As that amount loses its efficacy, more molecules are released, increasing the shelf life of these beauty products.
Examples of formaldehyde releasers found in beauty products are often listed as are; DMDM hydantoin, methylene glycol, quaternion 15, and 3 dioxanes, among others.
These formaldehyde releasers can be found in different skin and hair care products, the most notable of which being hair straightening treatments. They are also found in eyelash glue, makeup, nail polish, nail polish remover, and nail hardeners.
How Is It Harmful To Our Bodies?
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Formaldehyde is a Class 2 human carcinogen. This means that there is strong evidence that it can cause cancer, but the research is not conclusive. This is the major concern with the use of Formaldehyde.
Other adverse effects of its use include skin irritation, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, scalp burns, and hair loss.
However, irritation of any kind is much less likely to occur when Formaldehyde is used in low concentrations. In most beauty products, they are, in fact, used in low concentrations. Unless a person is highly sensitive to Formaldehyde, irritation is unlikely to occur.
America’s National Toxicology Program identified Formaldehyde as a carcinogen under conditions with high concentrations or prolonged exposure to it.
Prolonged exposure to Formaldehyde often occurs when a person works in proximity to it. Embalmers, factory workers, and some hairstylists are at risk of cancer due to prolonged exposure to Formaldehyde.
It is important to note here that Formaldehyde is carcinogenic only when its fumes are inhaled.
Most beauty products have relatively low Formaldehyde levels; however, some products have higher levels of it than others. Such products include hair straightening treatments and nail hardeners.
Nail hardeners are especially suspect because they use Formaldehyde as a strengthening agent and not as a preservative.
How Much Formaldehyde Is Safe To Use?
As far as nail hardeners are concerned, America’s Food and Drug Administration allows no more than 5 percent formaldehyde concentration. Anything more than that is considered harmful.
Scientists continue to push for stricter regulations, especially concerning their use in hair straightening treatments. As of yet, this is the only strict regulation the FDA has for Formaldehyde in beauty to date.
The FDA recommends that Formaldehyde not be included in sprays and that other products contain no more than 0.2 percent. However, companies aren’t obligated to comply with this. It is only a recommendation.
Some groups reject the use of Formaldehyde altogether because of its health risks which include asthma, miscarriages, and other fertility problems.
Formaldehyde is often used at an acceptable concentration in most beauty products, except hair straighteners and nail hardeners. Even at that, it poses no cancer-related risks unless its fumes are being inhaled.
However, the responsibility of taking care of your health falls on you, the customer. Until stricter regulations are put into place, you must be diligent. Read product labels.
Most beauty products containing Formaldehyde have too little of it to pose a serious threat. But you should check things out, regardless.
It is possible to avoid Formaldehyde altogether. Clean beauty brands are a thing now, thankfully. Formaldehyde-free beauty products are available. If that is what you would rather do, go for it.
The most important thing is for you to stay educated and make intelligent decisions while shopping.