Hair Loss

Hydantoin DMDM: is it safe?

Hydantoin DMDM: is it safe?

Many people have started to pay more attention to the ingredients in their skin and hair care products, thanks in part to the clean beauty movement. One particular ingredient, DMDM ​​hydantoin, has attracted a lot of negative attention.

DMDM hydantoin, a white, odorless preservative, commonly appears in shampoos, conditioners, styling products, moisturizers and even foundation, says Enrizza FactorMD, board-certified dermatologist and owner of EPF Dermatology Skin Therapy.

This preservative helps prevent produce from spoiling. But it’s also a common allergen that has raised concerns in recent years. Class action lawsuits against cosmetic companies have even suggested it could trigger hair loss.

Below, get the details on how DMDM ​​hydantoin works and what the research says about its potential risks.

The main benefits of DMDM ​​hydantoin are its antimicrobial properties.

Simply put, that means it can help prevent the growth of mold and other harmful fungi, yeasts and bacteria, Factor explains. Therefore, products containing this ingredient may stay fresher (and safer to use) for longer periods of time.

Preservatives like DMDM ​​Hydantoin play an especially important role in the products you keep in the shower – think shampoo, conditioner and body wash – as hot, humid conditions can encourage bacteria to grow.

DMDM hydantoin has been criticized in recent years mainly for releasing small amounts of formaldehyde. This chemical helps keep your products from going bad, but in high doses it can have the potential to cause cancer in humans.

Potential security issues include the following.

Allergic reactions

DMDM hydantoin is a known skin allergen.

A 2011 study suggested that this allergy is not uncommon. People who most often experience a reaction are women with chronic dermatitis and workers who frequently come into contact with formaldehyde-releasing products.

A balance sheet 2010 suggested that formaldehyde-releasing products are more likely to cause contact skin irritation in people with pre-existing formaldehyde allergies.

Allergic reactions to cosmetics usually appear as contact dermatitis or an itchy rash involving patches of discolored skin. You may also notice:


the National Toxicology Program classifies formaldehyde as a known carcinogensince evidence from human studies has suggested that exposure to the chemical may increase your risk of developing at least one type of cancer.

According to National Cancer Institute, people exposed to formaldehyde in the course of their daily work have a much higher risk of developing cancer than the general population. For example:

  • embalmers
  • carpenters
  • medical technicians
  • workers in the textile or metallurgical industry

Keep in mind, however, that formaldehyde exposure from DMDM ​​hydantoin is minimal, as Factor points out. To put things into perspective, Factor compares the amount of formaldehyde released by these products to the amount of natural origin in an apple or a pear.

the American Cancer Society notes that few human studies have explored the potential carcinogenic effects of formaldehyde in small doses.

As noted above, experts have found links between more frequent exposure to formaldehyde or exposure to greater amounts of formaldehyde and cancer risk.

People who work with formaldehyde may have a higher risk of:

  • leukemia
  • sinus cancer
  • throat cancer

Existing research does not suggest that the small amount of formaldehyde released by skin care products containing DMDM ​​hydantoin can cause cancer, but future research may offer more information about its potential effects.

Keep in mind that if you work in a salon and frequently use hair and beauty products containing DMDM ​​hydantoin, you may be exposed to more formaldehyde than someone who uses these products less often.

That’s why you’ll always want to follow recommended safety practices, like working in a well-ventilated area and wearing protective gloves and a face covering.

Hair loss or damage

Recent class actions have claimed that DMDM ​​hydantoin causes hair loss, but no scientific research supports this.

Shampooing generally does not cause hair loss. That said, severe scalp irritation that develops after an allergic reaction can sometimes lead to hair loss.

“DMDM hydantoin is safe as a cosmetic ingredient at current normal use levels in products,” Factor says.

A Safety assessment 2013 concluded that formaldehyde can be used safely in cosmetics “if established limits are not exceeded”.

According to Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an independent panel of medical experts and toxicologists, DMDM ​​hydantoin is safe at levels of 0.074% or less. Cosmetic products generally will not exceed this limitaccording to older research from 1988.

As recently as 2015, the United States and the European Union allow cosmetic and household products to contain up to 0.2% free formaldehyde and up to 0.6% formaldehyde releasers like DMDM ​​hydantoin.

Experts point out, however, that even this low concentration can cause a skin reaction in people allergic to formaldehyde.

Factor recommends contacting a healthcare professional or dermatologist if you suspect a skincare product has triggered allergic reaction symptoms, such as:

  • discoloration or redness of the skin
  • itching
  • swelling
  • urticaria

Dermatologists can perform a skin test, which involves placing a very small concentration of common allergens on your skin. After 48 hours, they will remove the patches on each allergen sample to determine which ingredients led to the reaction.

Once you find these allergy-triggering ingredients, you’ll want to check the labels of all your skin and hair care products to make sure you avoid them in the future.

You can also avoid products containing DMDM ​​hydantoin, or at least limit your use, if you live with chronic dermatitis or have sensitive skin.

Are you still hesitating whether or not to try a new product?

It never hurts to scan the label in the environmental working group document Healthy Living app to check how it ranks against the organization’s rigorous health and safety standards.

DMDM hydantoin is a common preservative that extends the shelf life of beauty and skin care products. But because it releases small amounts of formaldehyde, a reported carcinogen, its use has raised some concerns.

Although current findings suggest that it takes long-term exposure to higher doses of this chemical to increase health risks, it can’t hurt to avoid products containing DMDM ​​hydantoin. if you are allergic to formaldehyde or prone to dermatitis.

If you experience hair loss, rashes, or any other symptoms of irritation that seem related to product use, a good step is to contact a dermatologist to determine the cause of these reactions.

Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance writer covering health and wellness, fitness, food, lifestyle, and beauty. His work has also appeared in Insider, Bustle, StyleCaster, Eat This Not That, AskMen and Elite Daily.