Why Formaldehyde Could be Hiding Inside Your Nail Polish

Preservatives, Not So Life-Preserving.


Formaldehyde is a widely used preservative in many cosmetics, including baby wash.  Other industrial uses include resins, vinyl flooring, plastics, permanent press fabric, and toilet bowl cleaners. This chemical occurs (at low levels) naturally in the environment, however, industrial production worldwide is over 21 million tons per year. It may off-gas from cosmetics and be inhaled, as well as be absorbed through the skin. This synthetic is also colourless and used in glue, fabric, and paper product coatings. 

When dissolved in water, it becomes something called formalin. This chemical has also been found in preservatives used in funeral homes and medical labs.


  • nail polish
  • nail glue
  • eyelash glue
  • hair gel
  • hair smoothing products
  • baby shampoo
  • body soap
  • body wash
  • colour cosmetics


Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal.


Cancer: The United States National Toxicology program and International Agency for Research on Cancer both list the hidden chemical as a known carcinogen. Laboratory studies suggest that formaldehyde in topical cosmetics can also be absorbed through the skin.

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