Don't Panic, TikTok — Here's the Truth About Using DMDM Hydantoin and Formaldehyde in Hair Care

A viral moment gone mildly wrong.

We love TikTok for a lot of things. It's a platform filled with endless content that makes us big belly laugh, gives us constant creative inspiration, and there's a long list of tips, tricks, and hacks that quite literally have changed our lives.

While sometimes we can appreciate the swiftness of a good viral moment, in the case of DMDM hydantoin, we're reminded that you can't always take what you see on the internet and apply it as law without doing some research of your own first.

Allow us to backtrack. DMDM hydantoin is a preservative ingredient used in cosmetic products. The ingredient is getting a lot of attention in light of several class-action lawsuits against big haircare companies for using the DMDM hydantoin, which allegedly causes hair loss.

When TikTok users found out about said lawsuits and DMDM hydantoin, suddenly there were tons of videos on the app claiming that the ingredient caused hair loss and scalp irritation, and therefore should be avoided at all cost. One search for #dmdm on the app now has over 37 million (and counting) views filled with scared consumers and alternative hair care options.

After speaking with two cosmetic chemists and a trichologist and getting the truth about the ingredient, however, we're here to tell TikTok to take a deep breath and relax.

We'll share everything you need to know, ahead.

Hair Product
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What Is DMDM Hydantoin?

"DMDM hydantoin is an antimicrobial formaldehyde-releasing preservative found in products like shampoos, conditioners, hair gels, and skincare products," says Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist at BosleyMD.

"It works to help prevent the growth of fungi, yeast, and harmful bacteria and therefore extends the shelf-life of cosmetic products," explains Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist of Beauty Stat.

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Is DMDM Hydantoin Safe to Use?

"The formaldehyde content is a concern because it can be a carcinogen (when used in high concentrations per the CDC)," says Friese. "It can also cause irritation to the skin, especially in those allergic to formaldehyde." That said, DMDM hydantoin only releases small traces of formaldehyde — roughly equivalent to the amount naturally found in a medium-sized pear or apple.

"According to scientific experts, DMDM hydantoin is safe as a cosmetic ingredient at normal levels of use in products," says Friese. And according to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, it's safe to use DMDM hydantoin as a cosmetic ingredient at levels of 0.074% or less. "Used at certain levels, this ingredient is considered safe," says Robinson. "But some manufacturers have chosen to remove it given growing consumer concern."

For instance, companies like Tresemmé have publicly addressed the issue of DMDM hydantoin and hair loss in regards to their products.

So, should you be wary of DMDM hydantoin in your products? Maybe if you're someone with sensitive skin as it is a known allergen. Luckily, however, the Environmental Working Group has made it easy to check the ingredients of your beauty products thanks to their Healthy Living app.

But if your concerns are solely based on the claims you've heard on TikTok, here's your friendly reminder that even the most viral videos with millions of views or likes should be fact-checked before getting rid of your hair care products.

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