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Could your cosmetics be causing your red eyes?

Formaldehyde is a recognised carcinogen and health threat and known […]

By Published On: 21 March 20172.4 min read

Formaldehyde is a recognised carcinogen and health threat and known to cause skin and mucus membrane irritation, as well as red eyes. Yet it is present in many skincare and cosmetic products we use on a daily basis.

Should we be concerned?

Hidden formaldehyde and red eyes

Formaldehyde is mainly used in the manufacturing industry, in resins, coatings and particle board. But it crops up (often as a preservative) in many unexpected places, often under one of its lesser known names. Formaldehyde may also be called formalin, formic aldehyde, methanol, methanediol, etc. It is also released from many products, which are known as formaldehyde donors (or formaldehyde releasers).
The highly toxic chemical is present in eyelash extension glues, nail hardeners and hair straighteners, among many other beauty products.

What are the ocular symptoms?

Symptoms of formaldehyde toxicity include the following:
• Red eyes
• Allergic reaction
• Skin irritation / rashes
• Irritation and watering
• Inflammation

Who is at risk?

While levels are generally low, people who work in salons are exposed to much higher levels of formaldehyde.  If you work in an industry that uses formaldehyde or in a beauty or hair salon and are suffering from red, irritated eyes, there could be a connection.

Where to look

Here are some of the most common formaldehyde donors to look out for:

  • DMDM Hydantoin
    This is a common preservative in hair and beauty products. Its use is prohibited in Japan due to safety concerns.
  • Quaternium-15
    This is also used as a preservative in a wide range of beauty products (as well as latex paints and industrial glues).
  • Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
    This is used in hair straightening products and is identified as a potential allergen.
  • Ureas
    This family of preservatives relies on the slow release of formaldehyde to keep products on the shelf longer. They have also been identified as potential irritants for eyes, skin and others sensitive tissues.

How do I lower my risk of red eyes?

The amounts of formaldehyde in most products is very low and poses little risk if only encountered occasionally, such as the odd pedicure. It is always best to apply these products in a well ventilated room (or even outdoors).
However, if you work in a hair or beauty salon, or have regular eye-lash extensions or hair straightening treatments, it would be wise to see exactly what’s in the products being used. There may be less toxic options available. Salon workers can also check out what’s in their products and ensure good ventilation.

There are many underlying causes of red, irritated eyes. If you are suffering from acute or chronic red eyes, call The Eye Practice or make an appointment online today.

PLEASE READ: The information given under Eye Conditions is of a general nature and is not intended to be advice on any particular matter. Please take the appropriate Optometrical advice before acting on any information given under Eye Conditions of The Eye Practice web-site.


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