DMDM Hydantoin & Shampoo

August 9, 2021

Shampoo containing DMDM Hydantoin and potential health concerns

What is DMDM Hydantoin?

DMDM hydantoin is a substance that works as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products like shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, facial cleansers, and makeup. 

DMDM hydantoin extends the shelf life of the product. It prevents the product from spoiling and contamination with fungi, yeast and bacteria that can make people sick or give them rashes. 

What are the Side Effects of DMDM Hydantoin?

Currently, there is a class action lawsuit pending against shampoo companies that use DMDM hydantoin as an ingredient in their product. The suit claims the chemical may cause hair loss and scalp irritation in some people. There currently is a lack of research supporting this claim.  

Formaldehyde in Shampoo

Part of the chemical breakdown process for DMDM hydantoin involves a small, consistent release of formaldehyde, a strong-smelling gas. Industry research has confirmed and reaffirmed the acceptable level of formaldehyde, as long as it does not exceed a certain amount in the product. For context, the amount of formaldehyde released is equivalent to naturally occurring levels found in a medium-sized pear. 

What Else is Formaldehyde Used for?

Formaldehyde is commonly used in the production of many building materials and products for your household – including hair products. Permanent-press fabrics contain formaldehyde; as do glues, adhesives, and particle board. You can also find formaldehyde in fingernail polish, shower gel and even lotions. 

Health Issues Related to Formaldehyde

The use of Formaldehyde, the by-product of DMDM hydantoin breakdown, causes the following side effects:

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Products with formaldehyde-releasing ingredients can cause allergic contact dermatitis or contact eczema in people who are sensitive to formaldehyde. The US FDA lists DMDM hydantoin as a common allergen in cosmetic products.

Hair Loss

If regularly applied to the scalp, formaldehyde can cause trauma to the hair follicles and lead to hair loss.

Eye, Nose & Throat Irritation

Some people develop eye, nose, and throat irritation that can lead to breathing difficulties from inhaling formaldehyde. Reports of irritation are associated with hair salons, especially when hair products are heated with hair straighteners and blow dryers. Hair straightening treatments undoubtedly pose the biggest potential risk of formaldehyde exposure.


Formaldehyde is considered a probable carcinogen. Your risk increases if you are exposed at higher doses on a daily basis, particularly if you work in a morgue. Evidence is still inconclusive on the potential long-term effects of formaldehyde at low levels.

Formaldehyde-Associated Ingredients 

Formaldehyde-associated ingredients used in consumer cosmetic and personal care products include: 

  • formalin

  • formic aldehyde

  • methylene glycol

  • methanal

  • methylene oxide

  • methane diol

  • methyl aldehyde

  • paraform

  • oxomethane

  • oxymethylene

  • timonacic acid 

  • thiazolidinecarboxylic acid

  • benzylhemiformal

  • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol

  • 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane

  • diazolidinyl urea

  • 1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin

  • imidazolidinyl urea

  • sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

  • quaternium-15

  • glyoxal

Other Common Chemicals Found in Shampoo

Shampoos may also contain the following chemicals that are not associated with formaldehyde: 

  • Sulfates 
  • Parabens 
  • Sodium Chloride 
  • Polyethylene Glycols  
  • Synthetic Fragrances and Colours

How to Avoid DMDM Hydantoin & Formaldehyde Exposure

Consider Substitutions for Cosmetic & Personal Care Products

If you are concerned about possible exposure to DMDM hydantoin and formaldehyde, the best way to avoid this ingredient is to read labels and look for substitutes for your cosmetics and personal care products that contain ingredients such as DMDM hydantoin, methylene glycol, quaternium 15, 3 dioxane, formalin, and formic aldehyde. Check out this Skin-Deep database to find safer products.

Increase Ventilation 

Increase the ventilation in your workplace and take breaks outside if you work with beauty products that contain DMDM Hydantoin or Formaldehyde on a regular basis.

Is DMDM Hydantoin Safe?

Numerous specialists claim that DMDM hydantoin is safe in cosmetic and hygiene products such as shampoo. Since DMDM hydantoin emits minimal amounts of formaldehyde under regular usage conditions, the risks are minimal. However, the potential hazards associated with formaldehyde exposure from DMDM hydantoin persist.

Be Aware of the Chemicals in Your Personal Care Items 

Jurisdictions like Canada, France, Ireland, California, Maryland, and Oregon have removed beauty products with unacceptable levels of formaldehyde from store shelves. But the reality is that regulators cannot keep up with the development of chemicals on the market, so consumers need to be aware of what they are putting into their bodies.  

Personal care products contain a wide variety of ingredients, including some known to be hazardous, and many that lack research to prove that it is safe for one’s health.

These products do not require a formal SDS for consumer use, however SDS’s are required for consumer products if use in the workplace leads to prolonged exposure or excessive use. If you work in the cosmetic industry and may be exposed to shampoo and other personal care products daily, Chemscape Safety Technologies can you with SDS management and chemical management software to keep your employees and your customers safe. Contact us today to learn more.