What You Need to Know About Formaldehyde



What Is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a gas used in a number of household and building products. It is also used to make other chemical ingredients. Formaldehyde is never used in any significant quantity in skincare or cosmetic products, this is due to the fact that it is a gas and can’t be formulated into liquid or cream products. 

What is occasionally included in skincare products is methanediol, a version of formaldehyde which can be found in nail hardening or strengthening products as well as in some keratin treatments. Formaldehyde can be found in some products such as haircare, fragrance or body products as there are some ingredients which release formaldehyde gas that are used in skincare products such as diazolidinyl urea. 

Formaldehyde is mainly used in products such as wood glue, insulation materials, pressed wood or as a food preservative. 

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring ingredient, most humans and other living organisms create small amounts of formaldehyde as part of their natural metabolic processes.


the good:Formaldehyde is one of the best nail strengthening ingredients on the market.

the not so good:It has been linked to a number of cancers and can cause irritation to the respiratory system.

Who is it for?People who want to use a nail strengthening product.

Synergetic ingredients:Doesn’t have synergetic ingredients, it is more of a stand alone ingredient.

Keep an eye on:Keep an eye out for other sources of potential exposure to formaldehyde such as household products.

Why Is Formaldehyde Used?

In short, formaldehydes aren’t used in skincare. They will sometimes occur as a byproduct of other ingredients but this usually occurs in small amounts, certainly not in high enough concentrations to warrant concern. 

What Are the Concerns Around Formaldehyde?

Methanediol, the form of formaldehyde that is used in nail strengthening products is often where the concerns about formaldehyde in skincare or personal care products arises. These same concerns are raised with products that contain formaldehyde-releasing ingredients. There are a few reasons for these concerns. 

The first is that formaldehyde is a known irritant. It can cause watery eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, and has been known to trigger asthma attacks. As gas, formaldehyde can also cause headaches associated with displaced oxygen levels. 

The second concern of note is that formaldehyde is a known carcinogen to humans, meaning that it has the ability to increase your risk of cancers. Some studies have suggested a link between nasal sinus cancers and formaldehyde, along with nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia. 

Is Formaldehyde Safe?

Generally speaking, formaldehyde in skincare is relatively uncommon and many countries have introduced regulations to reduce the use of formaldehyde in skincare and cosmetic products. 

With any product or ingredient, the way it is used and formulated are the most important factors to its safety. So if you are ensuring that you are using a nail product in a well-ventilated area, then the risk will be reduced. However, given its potential for irritation and its links to cancer it may be an ingredient you want to be mindful of. 

What is important to note if you are wanting to avoid formaldehyde is the number of other household products that it is used in and the potential exposure you may be getting through other sources. 

References:Iversen, Olav, 1986. ‘Formaldehyde and skin carcinogenesis’, Environment International, vol 12, is. 5, pp. 541-544.
Kim, K, Jahan, S & Lee, J, 2011. ‘Exposure to Formaldehyde and Its Potential Human Health Hazards’, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, vol. 29, is. 4.
Delikhoon, M, Fazlzadeh, M, Sorooshian, A, Baghani, A, Golaki, M, Ashournejad, Q, & Barkhordari, A, 2018. ‘Characteristics and health effects of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in an urban area in Iran’, Environmental Pollution, vol. 242, pp. 938-951.


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