There’s formaldehyde in my conditioner.


A pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure, right? When it comes to my health, I try to proactively live a healthy lifestyle and avoid anything risky. That’s just common sense. These days, many people, especially those of us living with chronic illness, devote a lot of time and energy to our health and wellbeing.

When it came to personal care products, I usually bought them in the drugstore. I used to think that government safety regulation prevented anything too harmful from being used in these products. That was before I began reading ‘There’s Lead in your Lipstick’ by Gillian Deacon. I recently developed several skin conditions, like scalp dermatitis and millia, which made me want to look for some alternatives. Then I learned that there was (is) formaldehyde in my conditioner (DMDM hydantoin). My jaw dropped open for a good 30 seconds. How is this possible?

Apparently there is virtually no industry regulation on what ingredients companies can put in their products.* Known toxic contaminants and carcinogens, like phthalates, 1, 4-dioxane and lead, are present in common cosmetics. According to Deacon, there are more than 85 000 ingredients used in the personal care industry. Of these, fewer than 15% have been studied for their human health impact. Worse, the interactions between multiple chemical ingredients haven’t been studied at all. Most disturbingly, the accumulation of chemicals in the body, and the long term health consequences, are unknown. But facts like the presence of parabens, a common cosmetic additive, in 19 out of 20 breast tumors suggest a startling relationship.**Other research demonstrates links between ingredients or contaminants and sperm damage, low birth weight in girls, and abnormal reproductive organ development in male infants.*

Gillian Deacon recommends looking up your personal care products on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, a comprehensive metric of the chemical hazards in thousands of common personal care products. Drawing on multiple government, industrial and academic research databases, Skin Deep puts products on a scale of 1-10 in terms of chemical hazards, based on the ingredients.

Here are 3 of my products:

Selsun Blue Dandruff Shampoo, Medicated Treatment
Overall Score: 7 (high concern)
Particularly for cancer, allergies and immunotoxicity
Harmful ingredients: Selenium sulfide (8), Cocamide DEA (7), Fragrance (8), DMDM hydantoin – formaldehyde releaser (7).

Tresemme conditioner – smooth and silky
Overall score: 5 (moderate)
Particularly: allergies and immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption
Harmful ingredients: fragrance (8), Lilial (7), Geraniol (7), DMDM hydantoin – formaldehyde releaser (7)

Covergirl clean foundation for sensitive skin
Overall 5- moderate
Allergies and immunotoxins, reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption
Harmful: Propylparaben (10)(!) methyl-paraben (4), PEG (3)

I don’t think I can continue to douse myself in toxic chemicals! I’ll be looking up alternative products in my health food store on Skin Deep to make sure they aren’t toxic. (Be careful of greenwashing – ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ products may be misleading). Always check the label. Apparently my skin conditions may be a reaction to these products. Furthermore, my immune compromised fibromyalgia body doesn’t need any more challenges!

*Skin Deep