Understanding Formaldehyde and How to Avoid Formaldehyde-Releasing Agents in Hair Products

by Brianna Thompson

Formaldehyde, a chemical with potential health risks, has been a topic of concern in the beauty industry. It is important for consumers to be aware of formaldehyde-releasing agents that can be found in hair products and learn how to steer away from them. In this blog post, we will delve into what formaldehyde is, identify common formaldehyde-releasing agents, and provide tips on how to avoid them.

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a strong odor. It is commonly used in various industries, including the production of resins and adhesives. In the beauty industry, formaldehyde has historically been used as a preservative due to its antimicrobial properties. However, it is known to be an irritant and allergen, and excessive exposure to formaldehyde has been associated with potential health risks.

Common Formaldehyde-Releasing Agents in Hair Products:

Methenamine (Hexamethylenetetramine or Urotropine): Methenamine is a formaldehyde-releasing agent that slowly releases formaldehyde when it comes into contact with water. It has been used in some hair products, particularly those requiring preservation.
Quaternium-15: Quaternium-15 is a widely used preservative that gradually releases formaldehyde over time. It can be found in various cosmetic and hair care formulations.
Diazolidinyl Urea: Diazolidinyl urea is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative commonly used in cosmetics, including hair products. Under certain conditions, it can release formaldehyde.
DMDM Hydantoin: DMDM hydantoin is another formaldehyde-releasing agent used as a preservative in some hair care products. It releases formaldehyde when it decomposes.

How to Steer Away from Formaldehyde-Releasing Agents:

Read the Ingredient List: When purchasing hair products, carefully read the ingredient list. Look for formaldehyde-releasing agents such as methenamine, quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin. Be cautious if any of these ingredients are listed.
Look for Formaldehyde-Free Labels: Many brands now provide formaldehyde-free alternatives. Look for products that specifically state they are "formaldehyde-free" or "free from formaldehyde-releasing agents."
Educate Yourself: Stay informed about formaldehyde and its potential health effects. Keep an eye on updated information from reliable sources and regulatory agencies to make informed decisions about the products you use.
Choose Natural and Organic Products: Consider opting for hair products that are made with natural and organic ingredients. These products often prioritize using gentle preservatives and avoid formaldehyde-releasing agents.
Seek Brands with Transparent Practices: Look for brands that prioritize transparency and disclose their ingredient lists and manufacturing processes. Companies that prioritize consumer safety and avoid formaldehyde-releasing agents will often highlight this information on their websites or product packaging.


Formaldehyde-releasing agents can be found in certain hair care products and pose potential risks to our health. By understanding what formaldehyde is and being aware of common formaldehyde-releasing agents like methenamine, quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, and DMDM hydantoin, we can make more informed choices when selecting hair products. Read ingredient lists carefully, seek formaldehyde-free alternatives, educate yourself, choose natural and organic options, and support brands with transparent practices. By doing so, you can take steps towards a safer and healthier hair care routine.

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About the Author

Brianna Thompson

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