formaldehyde is a nail polish ingredient, which is also completely incorrect.  Here are the facts: a major ingredient used in nail polish is called “tosylamide formaldehyde resin”.  This resin is originally made using several substances, including formaldehyde gas, but the resin is totally different. It is very thick, sticky, doesn’t evaporate and has completely different properties from formaldehyde gas.  This resin can contain tiny trace amounts of formaldehyde residuals, but those levels are well below those found in nature. Formaldehyde is created in many naturally-occurring processes.  Yes, formaldehyde is a natural and organic substance that is normally found in many foods up to 0.0098%. Trace amounts naturally occur in even organically grown pears, apples, carrots and tomatoes.  In nail polish, the trace formaldehyde residuals are about the same as what naturally occurs in some foods. Also, scientific studies done in salons have proven that nail products don’t increase levels of formaldehyde in the salon air, so why the concern? Unless these advocacy groups think organically grown apples and carrots are also dangerous, they must be greatly over exaggerating the health risks.

The third incorrect claim is that certain preservatives used in some lotions, creams, shampoos, body washes, etc. release so much formaldehyde gas that they can cause cancer. What is the scientific truth? The most effective preservative ingredients for these types of cosmetics will very slowly release even lower amounts of formaldehyde than what is found in foods.  In general, they release about 100 times lower levels or about 0.0001%.   As you now know, this will immediately mix with water in the product and instantly convert into methylene glycol, so there’s virtually no chance of inhaling harmful levels of formaldehyde gas.  The same thing happens to the trace levels of formaldehyde that naturally occurs in food, which is why formaldehyde gas inhalation isn’t a problem with cosmetics. Remember, formaldehyde gas only rarely causes nasal cancer and when it does, these problems are only found in people who inhale significantly large dosages for long periods of time, e.g. formaldehyde manufacturing plant worker. These extremely beneficial preservatives can help ensure the safety of cosmetic products, so it’s important to not to unfairly slander them.  These preservative may occasionally cause skin irritation and allergic sensitivity in a small percentage of the population, but show no adverse effects for the overwhelming majority of people who use products protected by these important ingredients.

You can see that when the science behind this issue is examined, it becomes clear and obvious that the claims about formaldehyde in cosmetics causing cancer are not only incorrect; the entire issue has been dramatically exaggerated and overstated. Next time you hear that “formaldehyde” is a cancer causing ingredient in cosmetics, you’ll know this is NOT true!  You’ll also know that whoever made this statement doesn’t understand the facts. Please set them straight. Save this article so you can give it to them.  Educators, please share this information with your students.  It hurts the entire beauty, cosmetic and personal care industry when misinformation like this goes uncorrected. We need to set the record straight and you can help.


Doug Schoon is an internationally-recognized scientist, author and educator with over 30 years experience in the cosmetic, beauty and personal care industry. He is a leading industry authority, known for his technical and regulatory work that has helped shape the beauty industry. He is Co-Chair of the Nail Manufacturers Council (NMC), and as Creative Nail Design’s (CND) Chief Scientist, was head of the R&D laboratory, QA, and Field Testing/Evaluation departments for almost 20 years. Schoon has authored several books, video and audio training programs, as well as dozens of magazine articles about salon products, safety, and best practices for salon professionals. Schoon is well known for his captivating presentation style and his unique ability to make complex concepts easy to understand. In 1986, Schoon founded Chemical Awareness Training Service (CATS) – the beauty industry’s first safety training company. This was followed by his book, Nail Structure & Product Chemistry, 1st and 2nd Edition, which has become essential reading for nail salon pros. Schoon is a chief contributor to Milady’s Standard Nail Technology and Standard Cosmetology, as well as several medical reference books such as Baran and Maibach’s Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology and Cosmetic Dermatology: A Comprehensive Medical and Surgical Text. Schoon serves as an expert witness in legal cases, and doctors, dermatologists and podiatrists often consult Schoon when writing articles, books or scientific papers. He has worked as a scientific researcher, author and lecturer for almost 35 years and holds a Masters Degree in Chemistry from UC-Irvine. He currently resides in Dana Point, CA. Overview Industry Experience President, Schoon Scientific + Regulatory Consulting, LLC (2007- present) Co-Chair, Nail Manufacturer’s Council (NMC) (2003-present) V.P., Science & Technology – CND (Creative Nail Design, Inc.(1987-2007) Executive Director/Founder of Chemical Awareness Training Service (1986-89) World renowned expert; considered a leading scientist in the field Works with state, federal and international regulators to develop beauty industry related standards and regulations. Experienced working with EU and Japanese cosmetic regulatory agencies and many domestic and international trade associations Experienced working with activist groups to address industry issues Over thirty years experience as a researcher, lecturer, author and educator Regularly writes articles and makes contributions to several domestic and international beauty trade magazines Author of science and safety books for beauty professionals, including the industry standard, “Nail Structure & Product Chemistry“, Second Edition, 2005 Contributing author to many educational books used in beauty schools Contributing author to several medical texts used by dermatologists and doctors Bachelors Degree Chemistry, Cal State University- Long Beach, CA (1982) Masters of Science Degree in Chemistry, University of California-Irvine (1984)

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