Investigation on formaldehyde release from preservatives in cosmetics

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2015 Oct;37(5):474-8. doi: 10.1111/ics.12212. Epub 2015 Mar 9.


Objective: To understand formaldehyde residue in cosmetics, an investigation on formaldehyde release from eight preservatives (methenamine - MA, paraformaldehyde - PF, poly(p-toluenesulfonamide-co-formaldehyde) -PTSAF, quaternium-15 - QU, imidazolidinyl urea - IU, diazolidinyl urea - DU, dimethyloldimethyl hydantoin - DMDM and bronopol - BP) under various conditions was performed.

Methods: The concentration of released formaldehyde was determined by high-performance liquid chromatography with photodiode array detection after derivatization with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine.

Results: The amounts of formaldehyde release were in the order of PF > DU > DMDM ≈ QU ≈ IU > MA > BP > PTSAF. The releasing amounts of formaldehyde were the highest in the presence of aqueous matrices for the releasers except QU and IU, and the releasing effect was also relative to pH. More formaldehyde was released with longer storage time and higher temperature. Furthermore, all preservatives in cosmetic matrices released fewer amounts of formaldehyde than in pure aqueous or organic matrices, and the formaldehyde-releasing amounts were also cosmetic specific.

Conclusion: Formaldehyde release was dependent on the matrix, pH, time and mainly temperature, and the releasing effect was also cosmetic specific.

Keywords: cosmetics; formaldehyde; formaldehyde releasers; release rule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cosmetics / chemistry*
  • Formaldehyde / chemistry*
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / chemistry*


  • Cosmetics
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Formaldehyde