Tag Archives: chemicals

Not Puppy Love: Why is Formaldehyde in Shampoo

When you last went to the store, did you buy soap or shampoo? Have you recently purchased shampoo for your dog or cat? If so, did you even consider that there might be formaldehyde in shampoo, soap, and other skin care products you use every day for your pets, your baby, or yourself? This is the sad, but sometimes true reality of the products we have in our homes. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Really, there’s formaldehyde in shampoo?!

By now you’ve probably seen the adorable pictures that blogger Jessica Shyba took of her son Beau napping with the family dog Theo.

Puppy and baby got us talking here at Soap Hope about what goes into products for kids and pets.

We picked up a bottle of dog shampoo at the local pet store and had a look at the ingredient list. It started off fine – water, honey extract, and chamomile extract seemed like winners to us — but why was artificial fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, and Tetrasodium EDTA in dog shampoo?

Formaldehyde is for the Dogs

DMDM Hydantoin is a preservative that works by releasing formaldehyde into the product continuously over time. Formaldehyde does a great job inhibiting the growth of mold; but it’s also a known carcinogen, and most people don’t want it on their bodies or on their pets – especially when the puppy is snuggled up with the kids.

The consumer goods industry in the U.S. has a lot of leeway. If they want formaldehyde in shampoo, for example, but you don’t want to tell their customers, they can just add DMDM Hydantoin instead. The DMDM Hydantoin will slowly break down into formaldehyde in the shampoo throughout the life of the product. Problem solved!

(In the European Union, companies can’t get away with this trick: if an ingredient in their product breaks down into formaldehyde, they have to write “contains formaldehyde” on the label.)

In the Dog House

It’s not just Theo’s shampoo we think about at Soap Hope, it’s young Beau’s as well. Until 2014, Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo had Quaternium-15 in it. You guessed it – Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde in shampoo and other products they designed for babies. Years of public outcry finally caused Johnson & Johnson to reformulate their baby shampoo.

J&J Removing Formaldehyde in Shampoo
J&J removes formaldehyde-causing ingredients in their shampoo.
Image Source: NYTimes.com

Shampoo needs a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria. Big manufacturers don’t care that Quaternium-15 and DMDM Hydantoin produce formaldehyde; they care that they are very cheap and give their products a shelf life of over a year. These manufacturers know they can put pretty pictures on the products and make commercials with happy kids and pets, and that most people won’t look any further.

“No more tears!” Not quite.

Better Ways

There are better ways for manufacturers to preserve shampoo rather, than putting formaldehyde in their products. They can use a low-risk food-grade preservative like potassium sorbate, which has the same toxicity level as table salt. Even better, they can use vitamin e (tocopherol).

Some manufacturers don’t even require a preservative. For your pooch, try the totally natural Woof Wild Dog Shampoo Bar. Hand made by Maggie Hanus at A Wild Soap Bar, this shampoo bar has organic oils, aloe, oats, clay, sea salt, essential oils, yucca root and horsemint. It will leave your dog’s coat soft, shiny, and smelling great.

For moms and dads looking for a safe shampoo, we recommend any products from Acure Organics.

For baby’s bath time, try Hugo Natural’s Chamomile Vanilla Shampoo and Wash, followed by Badger’s Chamomile & Calendula Baby Oil, which contains nothing but certified organic essential oils.

What other ingredients are you worried about in your body care products? Let us know.