Survey of chemical substances in consumer products No. 138, 2015

Survey and health and environmental assessment of preservatives in cosmetic products


The survey of more than 600 cosmetic products identified a total of 53 preservatives. Based on the environmental and health screenings the following 5 were investigated: DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, zinc pyrithione, thimerosal and phenoxyethanol. The study showed risk of allergy using: DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and thimerosal, but because of insufficient data for the substances it was impossible to set a maximum concentration limit value and to calculate a risk by the allowed concentration. Furthermore the risk assessment showed that use of the products is safe, at the maximum allowed concentration of the 5 preservatives too. The survey showed that phenoxyethanol is the most widely used preservative. Therefore use of many cosmetic products is not unrealistic, all containing phenoxyethanol. To get more knowledge about the specific content of various types of cosmetic products, 30 products were selected for analysis of phenoxyethanol. The literature search showed more values for skin absorption and NOAEL for phenoxyethanol, and it was demonstrated that these can significantly change the risk calculation. At the most critical values and with the measured concentrations of phenoxyethanol a risk calculation showed no risk by daily exposure to phenoxyethanol from 14 everyday cosmetic products. However based on the maximum allowed concentration of phenoxyethanol in all 14 products, there is a risk by daily use of them. EU focus already on phenoxyethanol and the SCCP is currently assessing the safety of the substance in cosmetic products and if the maximum concentration of 1% is safe for all ages.

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