You might have seen formaldehyde at the back of your cosmetics or personal care label ingredients, but never make out what is it actually. Is it one of those scientific name for natural ingredients or it is just one of those synthetic chemical compositions in the formulation? Let’s dig in a little deeper what formaldehyde is.
Formaldehyde is a colourless and pungent, with a distinct odour. Yikes! It is highly flammable in room temperature, and would cause a burning sensation to the eyes, throat, and lungs when exposed in high concentrations. It is a simple chemical compound made of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.
Interestingly, small amounts of formaldehyde are naturally produced from all life forms as a part of cell metabolism. Humans and most of living organisms make small amount as part of normal metabolic process.
However, large amounts of this chemical compound are produced during the manufacturing processes in making building materials and many household products.
In that case, where can we find formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde can be found in the air, rainwater from air releases from power plants, automobile exhausts, and cigarette smoke. It’s intriguing to know that both smokers and those breathing second-hand smoke are exposed to higher levels of formaldehyde. One study found much higher levels of formaldehyde bound to DNA in the white blood cells of smokers compared to non-smokers.
E-cigarettes are in the list as well! Formaldehyde is contained in the vaporised liquid of popular electronic or e-cigarettes devices. According to an analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the exposure to formaldehyde from e-cigarettes, based on similar chronic use as cigarette, could be five to 15 times higher than from smoking cigarettes! Gulp! All this while, advertisements after advertisements have been relentlessly trying to inform smokers that e-cigarette is the ‘healthier’ option to reduce nicotine intake and stop smoking habit. We think that we are having second thoughts about e-cigarettes now!
Formaldehyde can also be found in consumer products like cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, and nail polishes. This is something new! Professional keratin hair smoothing treatments can contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasing chemicals. Using these can raise indoor air concentrations of formaldehyde to levels that could be a potential hazard. We don’t know about you, but in the past, we loved to have such hair treatment at hair salon but the smell of it does turn us off for a bit. And now we know why it has such a strong pungent odour!
This is another point that we dreaded; formaldehyde can also easily found in baby products! It raises concern to many, especially parents wanting the safest products for their babies. We can find formaldehyde in particleboard, some baby shampoos, and baby washes, which we deemed are the necessities in taking care of babies’ hygiene. Babies and children are highly vulnerable to toxic chemicals due to the fact that their little bodies are still developing with their bodily system, immunity, neurological, and endocrine. Studies have shown that even small exposures during critical windows can lead to breast cancer, infertility, learning disabilities, and other health problems later in life.
Formaldehyde in added into personal care products due to its ability to kill microorganisms and prevent growth of bacteria, which is to extent product’s shelf life. It is a concern for some due to the studies that have shown that high, prolonged exposure of formaldehyde may cause cancer of the blood, similar to a form of leukaemia.
Studies have shown that people exposed to formaldehyde in the workplace have found possible link to cancer of the nasal sinuses, and causes burning sensations to the eyes, nose, and throat as well as skin irritation.
American Cancer Society has stated that some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, however others may not experience the same reaction. Products that contained formaldehyde, such as cosmetics, lotions, body shampoo, and baby products that have this chemical can cause allergy reaction in the skin, such as contact dermatitis, which causes itchy, red rashes.
Make the informed decision of choosing your daily personal care and cosmetics products wisely. If you want to avoid using formaldehyde at all, check the product label ingredients and look out for these names:
- Formic aldehyde
- Methyl aldehyde
- Methylene glycol
- Methylene oxide
It is possible to switch to clean and safe beauty products to reduce the usage of formaldehyde in our daily lives. We can start by using personal care products that are made with an all plant based ingredient. We can easily find natural handmade soaps, body shower, body lotion, hair shampoo, and even natural skincare that are safe and clean to be used.
A simple step to know the ingredients of what you are using daily will make a big impact in your health!