If you want to broadcast a message everywhere with just one click, TikTok is the place to share it. That’s what happened earlier this year, when a user – then another, and another – caught wind of class action lawsuits alleging that a hair ingredient called DMDM hydantoin causes scalp irritation. and hair loss.
Suddenly the platform was buzzing with videos of users making similar claims and warning others to avoid products with DMDM. (Today, videos tagged with #dmdm have garnered over 37 million views.)
Here’s what we know about DMDM hydantoin, so far:
What is DMDM hydantoin?
We’ll unbox those claims in a minute, but in the meantime, let’s break down the ingredient in question. “DMDM hydantoin is a preservative used to protect cosmetics from microbial deterioration throughout their shelf life,” explains cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos.
Preservatives work in a multitude of different ways, but DMDM hydantoin is in a class called formaldehyde releasers because they do just that: release “very small amounts of formaldehyde over the course of time.” life of [a] product, ”according to Dobos.
Is DMDM hydantoin safe?
If that sounds off-putting, consider formaldehyde naturally occurring in foods like bananas, carrots, and apples. In fact, the amount of formaldehyde released by DMDM hydantoin is roughly equivalent to that of a pear.
“The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel of medical experts and toxicologists concluded that free formaldehyde in cosmetics should not exceed 0.2%,” Dobos reports. “DMDM hydantoin is typically used at concentrations below half a percent in total, which means cosmetics are unlikely to contain levels above this recommendation.”
Nonetheless, TikTok users have heard the words ‘formaldehyde’ and ‘hair loss’ and run around with them – to the point that big beauty brands like Tresemmé and OGX (whose parent companies have been named in the lawsuits above) have actively removed DMDM hydantoin from their formulas and have visited their websites to directly address said complaints.
A representative for Tresemmé, owned by Unilever, said: “Although DMDM has been shown to be safe and widely used in the beauty industry as a preservative, Tresemmé no longer uses DMDM. In our product formulations. “
A statement provided by OGX, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, had a similar sentiment: “Our new product launches do not contain the preservative DMDM Hydantoin. In fact, we haven’t launched any new hair care products with this ingredient in the past several years.
“Some of our existing products contain a small amount of DMDM hydantoin. Every preservative used in our products must comply with our rigorous safety assessment process. We also offer a range of formulas with a variety of different preservatives that meet evolving consumer preferences. “
The bottom line is this: Although DMDM hydantoin does release traces of formaldehyde, there is no scientific evidence that it can cause your hair to fall out. “If this was really the cause of hair loss, the industry would have stopped using it a long time ago,” says Dobos.