Amended safety assessment of formaldehyde and methylene glycol as used in cosmetics

Int J Toxicol. 2013 Nov-Dec;32(6 Suppl):5S-32S. doi: 10.1177/1091581813511831.


Formaldehyde and methylene glycol may be used safely in cosmetics if established limits are not exceeded and are safe for use in nail hardeners in the present practices of use and concentration, which include instructions to avoid skin contact. In hair-smoothing products, however, in the present practices of use and concentration, formaldehyde and methylene glycol are unsafe. Methylene glycol is continuously converted to formaldehyde, and vice versa, even at equilibrium, which can be easily shifted by heating, drying, and other conditions to increase the amount of formaldehyde. This rapid, reversible formaldehyde/methylene glycol equilibrium is distinguished from the slow, irreversible release of formaldehyde resulting from the so-called formaldehyde releaser preservatives, which are not addressed in this safety assessment (formaldehyde releasers may continue to be safely used in cosmetics at the levels established in their individual Cosmetic Ingredient Review safety assessments).

Keywords: formaldehyde; methylene glycol.

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetics*
  • Formaldehyde / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Methanol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Methanol / toxicity
  • Safety Management*


  • Cosmetics
  • Formaldehyde
  • methylene glycol
  • Methanol