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DMDM Hydantoin In Hair Products: What You Need To Know

Let’s talk about DMDM hydantoin in hair products.

Did you know that this common preservative is found in many products we use every day? It’s true – this chemical is a preservative that prevents spoilage from bacteria and fungi, giving your favorite shampoos and conditioners a longer shelf life.

But hold your hairbrushes, folks! It’s not that simple

DMDM hydantoin is also a formaldehyde releaser, and some have raised eyebrows over potential health risks.

This is why understanding what’s in our hair products is so important… we apply these potions directly to our scalp.

So, it’s not just about keeping our locks lush and glossy; it’s really about staying informed and making healthy choices for our bodies.

After all, great hair should never come at the expense of our health, right? In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the DMDM hydantoin in your beauty products.

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Get the facts about DMDM hydantoin, a preservative found in many hair products. Learn why it's used and how it affects your hair...

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What is DMDM Hydantoin?

DMDM Hydantoin chemical molecule

DMDM hydantoin is an antimicrobial preservative used in many hair and skincare products. Its job? To extend the shelf life of your favorite shampoos and conditioners by preventing the growth of nasty microbes (think bacteria and yeast).

As previously mentioned, it belongs to a family of preservatives known as “formaldehyde releasers” – more on that later! In short, DMDM hydantoin helps keep your products fresh and ready to work their magic on your hair.

The Controversy Surrounding DMDM Hydantoin

Unhappy woman looking at her hair.

Ah, here’s where the plot thickens!

DMDM hydantoin has come under fire recently because, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a “formaldehyde releaser.”

You’re probably thinking, “Wait, isn’t formaldehyde that stuff used to preserve dead things?!” Yep. Formaldehyde is used in embalming fluid (yikes!) but also in many cosmetics and personal care products.

The controversy arises because formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer… and continual exposure to formaldehyde can potentially lead to cancer.

Although the amounts of formaldehyde released by DMDM hydantoin in your hair products are incredibly low, some people argue that any exposure is too much.

The debate continues, but in the meantime, it’s up to us to decide what we’re comfortable putting on our heads and bodies. The best thing we can do is stay informed about what we are using on a daily basis.

Pros and Cons of DMDM Hydantoin

Woman washing her hair.

Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty! Like everything else in life, this ingredient has its pros and cons.


First off, DMDM hydantoin is an effective preservative. It keeps your shampoos and conditioners from becoming bacterial playgrounds, so they stay fresh longer.

It’s also affordable, which helps keep the cost of your favorite hair products down.


But then there are the downsides. Remember that formaldehyde I mentioned earlier?

Some people may have a skin reaction to formaldehyde, ranging from slight irritation to more severe allergic reactions.

Plus, there’s that potential cancer risk from long-term exposure.

But keep in mind that the amount of formaldehyde released by DMDM hydantoin is super small. Nonetheless, some people are simply uncomfortable with any level of risk, especially when dealing with our health.

There you have it… the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of DMDM hydantoin. The decision to use products containing this ingredient is personal, based on your comfort with the associated risks and your individual hair care needs.

No choice is better than the other.

How to Identify DMDM Hydantoin in Your Hair Products

Woman reading a shampoo bottle.

Alright, my savvy readers, let’s put on our detective glasses and dive into the exciting world of ingredients! Identifying DMDM hydantoin in your hair products is easier than you might think.

Most products list their ingredients on the back, often in small print under a heading like “Ingredients.”

So, first things first, grab that bottle of hair product, flip it around and start scanning the list from the top down.

You’ll likely find DMDM hydantoin somewhere in the middle or towards the end of the list. Why there, you ask? Because ingredients are listed in order of concentration, with the highest quantities first.

But here’s the tricky part… DMDM hydantoin could be hiding under a different name like Glydant, Glydant Plus (which contains DMDM hydantoin and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate), or even just “formaldehyde releaser.”

Finally, remember that DMDM hydantoin is just one of many formaldehyde releasers. Others include quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, and imidazolidinyl urea. If you’re aiming to avoid all formaldehyde releasers, keep an eye out for these names too!

Happy label-reading!

Alternatives to DMDM Hydantoin

Happy woman smiling outside.

Now that we’ve got the lowdown on DMDM hydantoin, let’s chat about the alternatives.

If the idea of formaldehyde releasers in your hair products is making you squirm, don’t stress! There are tons of wonderful, safer alternatives out there.

For starters, many brands now include natural preservatives, like essential oils, rosemary extract, and grapefruit seed extract.

While these may not preserve your products quite as long as DMDM hydantoin, they’re gentler on your skin and certainly don’t come with a side of potential carcinogens.

And then there’s the world of DMDM hydantoin-free hair products.

Brands are catching on to the fact that consumers are becoming more ingredient-savvy, and many are now proudly advertising their products as DMDM hydantoin-free.

Avalon Organics Therapy Biotin B-Complex Thickening Shampoo, For an Energized…
  • Body Building: This shampoo supports an energized scalp and thicker, fuller-looking hair…
  • Thoughtfully Made: Comprised of a blend of biotin, saw palmetto, quinoa protein, and…
  • Formulated Without: This shampoo is packaged in a 100% recycled bottle and is formulated…

Remember, everyone’s hair is different, so what works for one person might not work for another. The key is to experiment with different products until you find what works best for your hair.

Happy hunting…and here’s to healthier, happier hair!



FAQ Icon
Is DMDM Hydantoin cancerous?

The U.S. FDA and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) have both approved it as safe for use in cosmetics. However, because it’s a formaldehyde releaser, there’s concern about potential health risks. Let’s break it down: Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But here’s the thing, the amount of formaldehyde released by DMDM hydantoin in your hair products is very low. So, while there’s a risk, it’s considered minimal.

Does DMDM Hydantoin turn into formaldehyde?

Yes, DMDM hydantoin does release formaldehyde, but that doesn’t mean your shampoo turns into a formaldehyde bottle overnight. DMDM hydantoin is what’s known as a “formaldehyde donor”. In the presence of water, it slowly and continuously releases a very small amount of formaldehyde to keep your products from spoiling. This is exactly why it’s used as a preservative.

But rest assured, the concentrations are usually very, very low – we’re talking less than 0.2% of the product. So yes, while it’s true that DMDM hydantoin does turn into formaldehyde, it’s at levels that regulatory authorities consider safe for use.

What are the side effects of DMDM hydantoin?

If you’re sensitive to formaldehyde, you might experience skin irritation or allergic reactions when using products containing DMDM hydantoin. These reactions can include skin redness, rashes, itching, and even swelling. For folks with a formaldehyde allergy, these symptoms can be pretty uncomfortable.

Remember, not everyone will react to DMDM hydantoin. Some people use products containing this ingredient for years without a hitch.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts Icon

I hope this information has been useful for you and helps you when shopping for hair products.

Personally, I’m excited to see more and more brands adopting natural and organic ingredients and moving away from potentially harmful chemicals. It’s important for us to be aware of what we’re using on our bodies, and it’s great to see the beauty industry starting to prioritize that as well.

As always, do your own research and make informed decisions about the products you use. Happy hair care shopping!

Until next time,


Your Turn: Have you had any bad experiences with DMDM hydantoin? Is there anything else I should add to this post? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

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Last update on 2024-06-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Friday 10th of December 2021

Not all OTC shampoos are using it. I checked all of my hubs suave that he loves, and none of it has this. Neither did my BIOLAge or redken. However, I do use SuAVE to clean my bathtub, not my pro products 😁

Brenda CHASE

Monday 30th of August 2021

Have grey hair need mild shampoo or no lather for extreme dry & a great curl activator


Thursday 4th of February 2021

Do you have a list of professional hair care products, and color that do not contain DMDM

Gaylene Henderson

Monday 18th of January 2021

My reactions were itchy head;when combing out a batch of hair would come out; quit combing and used my fingers to detangle, no better. My hair would just come out on my hands, I would have to lift it off my fingers the first couple of times then it would slow down to only a few strands. I noticed it was more at the top of my head where I would scrub off oil around my face/hair.

Elizabeth K

Friday 9th of July 2021

So what are you using now? I have this issue too! I've been taking collagen to help but I'm not seeing a difference. This may be why

Gaylene Henderson

Monday 18th of January 2021

I also would lose hair while cooking for my family, this was gross, i even considered wearing a net. I lost the desire to cook out or for family get togethers for this reason.


Wednesday 13th of January 2021

So i need a alTernative! Ive used dove and tresemme, but those made my hair thinner and im just losing my hair! Made my head itch with sore spots and - ugh - at some point i thoughT i actually had lice. I really cant believe they would do that to consumers and profit From it! We really gave them the bEnefit of the doubt. Im so angry, mostly at myself For not researching but alSo for them! :’(