Do Parabens Release Formaldehyde?

by beautifulwithbrains
parabens do not release formaldehyde

You know the whole “parabens are the devil” thing?

It’s total nonsense. I’ve debunked it all here.

But, there’s one thing I’ve forgotten to touch on. Formaldehyde.

Parabens, those little preservatives that keep your cosmetics safe from germs and bacteria, are often accused of releasing this nasty stuff.

Is that true or is it just another thing parabens wrongly take the blame for?

Do Parabens Release Formaldehyde?

First things first: what the heck is formaldehyde?

The stuff used to embalm dead bodies and preserve dead things. Yes, it’s gross. Toxic. Carcinogenic, even.

FYI, your body’s making it, too.

I’m not kidding. Your body does produce a tiny amount of formaldehyde during essential metabolic processes. Like, when it makes certain amino acids.

You honestly couldn’t live if your body didn’t do that. But that doesn’t mean formaldehyde is good. You may need the tiniest amount to survive but you don’t want to come into contact with more formaldehyde than you need to.

The good news? Parabens do NOT release formaldehyde. There’s no shed of proof they do. You can use them safely.

Related: Why Science Says Parabens Are Safe To Use


Want to know what ingredients you really need to avoid in your skincare products? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Skincare Ingredients To Avoid” cheatsheet:


What Preservatives Do Release Formaldehyde?

So, why do people think that parabens release formaldehyde?

Probably cos of their bad rep, they must have been added by mistake in the list of preservatives that DO release formaldehyde.

Yep, parabens may be innocent here, but some preservatives do release formaldehyde.

Before you start to panic, these preservatives release only the tiniest amount. That’s more than enough to kill the germs and bacteria that, somehow, find their way into your lotions and potions. But, that’s not enough to kill you.

So, I guess we could say they’re safe.

Kind of. They won’t give you cancer, but they may irritate your skin. Especially if it’s sensitive.

So, what preservatives do release formaldehyde?

  • 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Hydroxymethylglycinate
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea
  • Quarternium-15
  • Trishydroxymethylnitromethane

Related: Parabens Alternatives: Which Ones Are Safe And Effective?

Should You Avoid Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives?

As I said, they won’t kill you. But, they may irritate your skin. I personally try to avoid them whenever possible because I think there are gentler alternatives around. And, if those exist, why not use them?

Related: Alternatives To Parabens: Which Are Both Safe And Effective?

The Bottom Line

Parabens don’t release formaldehyde. But, other preservatives do. If you have sensitive skin that reacts badly to anything, avoid them.

Do you use products with formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, or do you prefer to stay away from them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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8 comments

Anastasia August 27, 2008 - 10:51 pm

This post is so helpful! I recently found out that the artificial sweetener, aspartame turns to Formaldehyde in your body. I used to drink tons of Diet Pepsi until I heard that, and now, nothin’ but water =S

You certainly know your stuff :]

beautifulwithbrains August 28, 2008 - 1:39 pm

I’m glad you like the post. I like researcging info on ingredients and I’ve learnd so much since starting the blog. I think there is a lot fo alarming and misleading info on ingredients out there and it’s really important to do some research and see if there is any truth in these claims instead of just believing everything you read. I didn’t know about aspartame too, thanks for sharing that. I’ll have to go and check if I have any poducts containg it so I can throw them away.

Anastasia August 29, 2008 - 6:48 pm

A really good sweetener and sugar alternative is xylitol. It’s low GI, half the calories of sugar, isn’t a neuro-toxin like aspartame and it’s actually good for your teeth!

beautifulwithbrains August 30, 2008 - 12:45 pm

Xylitol sounds great, I will definitely look for products that contain it the next time I go shopping. Thanks for all the info. Afte I read your previous comment I discovered I had bought some chewing gums containing aspartame. I had only chewed 2 gums as I don’t particularly like chewing gums, but they went straight into the bin.

Anastasia September 27, 2008 - 1:39 am

I just realised my super-expensive No. 7 4-in-1 cleansing make-up remover wipes have 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol in. Arrgh! How is that good skincare?! I can’t believe they charge £6 a pack, too.

I’m going to go and complain tomorrow. I bookmark this post and check all my stuff =O

beautifulwithbrains September 27, 2008 - 1:55 pm

That’s too bad! Unfortunately there are so many products containing these ingredients and some are quite expensive. I can’t understand why they won’t use safer ingredients. Hope they’ll listen to you, let me know how it goes.

Dave October 1, 2008 - 2:35 am

Enjoyed your post on formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. I teach embalming at a mortuary science college in California. We have begun demonstrating a new non-toxic, organic embalming compound called Aardbalm. It is manufactured in the UK. The manufacturers of Aardbalm are looking for safe alternatives to formaldehyde – the mortuary industry being one of the larger users of the preservative. Thanks again for your informative blog.

beautifulwithbrains October 1, 2008 - 2:08 pm

Hi Dave and thanks for you comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and it is great to know they are finally looking for safe alternatives to formaldehyde.

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