Despite a European recommendation to remove the synthetic preservative methylisothiazolinone (also known as MI) from leave-on cosmetics, many brands are still using it in their products.
A special report in the Mail on Sunday reveals that some cosmetics companies who pledged to remove MI have failed to do so in some of their products. But it's not just cheap, mainstream brands that still contain this chemical; even designer, high end brands are yet to remove MI from some of their products.
The allergy epidemic
What has been described by doctors as the worst skin allergy ‘epidemic’ many have ever seen has been linked to an increased use of MI in cosmetic products.
MI was first flagged up by doctors as a danger 2 years ago, after it was discovered that 1 in 10 eczema patients in hospital skin clinics were allergic to the chemical. Since then, studies have shown that MI in cosmetics is responsible for causing an allergy epidemic, and because the preservative is still in use, this epidemic has yet to subside.
This year, scientific advisers at the European Commission have called for MI to be completely banned from all cosmetics that are left on the skin after application (e.g. face creams) and for their use in wash off products to be dramatically reduced. There is also a growing concern that companies are not acting fast enough to remove MI, which could be causing harm to the public.
Methylisothiazolinone linked to contact dermatitis
The preservative MI has been recently used in much higher doses than ever before, and has reportedly led to what has been described as an ‘epidemic’ of cases of contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis can cause skin to become red and itchy, and can also cause rashes, scaling, swelling, stinging and blistering. Eczema is the most common type of contact dermatitis affecting one in twelve adults and one in five children.
Concentrations of MI rising
Although the substance is safe and non-toxic and has been used in cosmetics for a number of years, recently concentrations have become stronger. Previously, methylisothiazolinone was used in much smaller concentrations and mixed with another preservative known as MCI, but in 2005 fears that MCI was causing allergies led manufacturers to start using MI as a single agent.
Experts say that since the increase in concentration of MI in products, there has been a serious rise in cases of contact dermatitis. Doctors estimate that one in ten patients they are seeing with eczema or dermatitis has been caused by an allergy to the preservative MI.
Why methylisothiazolinone causes an allergic reaction
The preservative stops products growing mould by binding microbes and preventing bugs from thriving. The reason this can cause an allergic reaction is that the immune systems of some people can mistakenly identify MI as a threat.
At a major conference for the British Association of Dermatologists being held in Liverpool there were calls for the use of the chemical MI to be re-evaluated. There have already been calls to the European Commission by the European Society of Contact Dermatitis (ESCD) to investigate what levels are safe.
Green People is MI free
Green People’s organic beauty products have never used methylisothiazolinone as a preservative. Green People uses a range of mild preservatives including potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, levulinic acid and sorbic acid which are all generally very well tolerated by the majority of people, even those with the most sensitive skin
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