CIR labels formaldehyde unsafe and calls for its removal from hair straightening products

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Methylene glycol Formaldehyde

After months of deliberation, the Cosmetics Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR) declared for the first time, that the use of formaldehyde and methylene glycol in hair straightening products is unsafe.

The review by the CIR, which is an independent, non-profit body of scientific and medical experts that assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in the US, was initiated as requested by the FDA, the Professional Beauty Association, and the Personal Care Products Council (the Council).

The US Food and Drug Administration has yet to bar formaldehyde from hair straighteners, even though the US Department of Health and Human Safety have labeled it a known human carcinogen, and it is unclear how this latest announcement will affect the FDA’s decision-making on a possible ban.

Additional information needed

The agency turned to the CIR originally in order to get additional information as it felt that it needs to be able to take an action, but was not sure what that action is at present. Following this announcement all eyes will now be on the FDA to see what the next move is.

Last month the FDA issued a formal warning that asked the makers of one hair straightening product Brazilian Blowout, to change its labelling or risk removing the product from shelves. The agency stated it contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde, and misbranded, because it claimed to be free of formaldehyde.

The makers of the product, GIB, did not meet these requirements and has now taken action to ensure it can continue to sell the products, claiming it still has high consumer demand.

Safety dependent on a number of factors

At its meeting in Washington earlier, CIR noted that the safety of methylene glycol and formaldehyde in hair straightening products depends on a number of factors, including the concentration of formaldehyde and methylene glycol, the amount of product applied, the temperature used during the application process, and the ventilation provided at the point of use.

The Panel concluded that under present practices of use and concentration, formaldehyde and methylene glycol are unsafe in hair straightening products.

“CIR reached its conclusion after a comprehensive review of the available safety data and information and a robust discussion of this difficult and complex issue. We support the panel’s findings,”​ said Jay Ansell, Council scientist and vice president of cosmetic programs.

The panel also concluded that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are safe for use as a preservative in cosmetics at minimal effective concentration levels and that do not exceed established limits and are safe in nail hardening products in the present practices of use and concentration.

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