The internet is rife with haircare and cosmetic misinformation. Every single time I log onto Instagram or TikTok, I see something that is blatantly untrue.
The latest piece of misinformation has to do with DMDM Hydantoin, a formaldehyde releaser that a recent class action lawsuit claims causes hair loss and irritation.
Many people’s gut reaction was to throw out every product with DMDM Hydantoin – let’s talk about why this isn’t necessary.
First, I wanted to share this post by @dermangelo on Instagram, a dermatologist and science communicator:
Some context to his post:
- Dr. Landriscina mentions that formaldehyde releasers rose to prominence after parabens became demonized. Note that parabens are some of the safest, most well-researched preservatives out there, with one of the lowest rates of allergic reaction. More info from Lab Muffin Beauty Science.
- A huge point that Dr. Landriscina makes here is that a class action lawsuit does not mean that a product is necessarily bad for you. This is something I was absolutely shocked to learn – a good lawyer can argue anything in front of a jury of non-scientists, but that doesn’t meant the opinion of the scientific community is going to change. Wouldn’t you want the general consensus on an ingredient to be based on whether or not an ingredient is actually harmful for you, and not misleading fearmongering? The Eco Well has more info on this topic in her post covering the fact that current research finds that talc does not cause ovarian cancer.
After reading this post, you still may be wondering – isn’t formaldehyde harmful, no matter what? Shouldn’t I avoid it just in case?
Here’s the deal: formaldehyde releasers are demonstrably safe. If you’ve used products containing these preservatives and haven’t had any irritation or adverse reaction…you don’t need to worry about it. In fact, the amount of formaldehyde in one entire bottle of hair product is the same amount of formaldehyde you’d find in a pear. Furthermore, it’s safe to use multiple products with formaldehyde-releasing preservatives as aggregate exposure is taken into account when setting safety regulations for cosmetics.
Remember: there is no “better safe than sorry” in this situation. If it does not bother you, it’s not a problem, full stop.
Lastly, I do want to touch upon the fact that hair loss is a touchy subject in the haircare community. There are many reasons one may experience hair loss, and it’s often difficult to ascertain what exactly may be causing the problem.
To give a personal example, I experienced increased shedding in 2020 from September – November. The amount of hair I was losing was pretty shocking. After meeting with my general practitioner and dermatologist, we determined it was most likely due to the following factors:
- A vitamin D deficiency: This is a pretty common deficiency – it’s estimated that up to 42% of Americans may not be getting enough. I was diagnosed via blood test, and prescribed 2000IU/day. Not getting enough vitamin D can cause increased shedding.
- Telogen effluvium: Defined as “temporary hair loss due to the excessive shedding of resting or telogen hair after some shock to the system” (DermNet NZ), this was possibly something I was experiencing. Firstly, I had experienced an allergic reaction to a product back in February that had caused contact dermatitis. Telogen effluvium often occurs months after a stressful event, so that may have played a part in my hair loss. Additionally, my derm had mentioned that many people were coming in complaining of hair loss recently – most likely due to the stress of the pandemic.
If you ever experience unexplained hair loss – please reach out to a dermatologist. Additionally, if you ever experience irritation from a product, stop using it immediately.
I hope this post was helpful for helping y’all separate fact from fiction. For more information, I recommend following the below: