Following a surge of dermatological consultations resulting from allergic reactions to methylisothiazolinone (MIT), the dermatology community recently alerted public authorities and the industry about the risks linked to the presence of this substance in cosmetics. For instance, a study released at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference, which was held in Liverpool in July 2013, showed a sharp rise in contact allergy to the MCI/MI [1] mixture and to MI alone over the past three years.

Consumer safety

In the wake of these reports, the European Commission proposed to amend Annex V of Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 on cosmetic products in order to limit the use of the MCI/MI mixture and MI alone.

However, Cosmetics Europe recommends companies do not wait for regulatory intervention under the Cosmetics Regulation but stop using MIT in leave-on skin products as soon as feasible. The European trade association says that industry experts have concluded there was evidence to suggest a relationship between the use of leave-on skin products, including cosmetic wet wipes containing MIT, and the induction of contact allergy and allergic contact dermatitis.

Following close analysis of clinical data, market feedback and Quantitative Risk Assessment analysis, Cosmetics Europe has concluded that the discontinuation of MIT use in leave-on skin products would result in a significant decrease in the incidence of sensitisation to this ingredient,” explains Cosmetics Europe.

Preservatives in cosmetics

MIT was introduced to the market as a cosmetic preservative in 2006, and since then has been widely used due to its broad spectrum preservation properties. However, this substance was previously used in combination with chloromethylisothiazolinone under the trade name Kathon-CG. Once widely and commonly used, Kathon-CG was gradually abandoned and its use restricted to certain rinsed off products such as shampoos. Kathon-CG has been gradually replaced by parabens, which had the advantage of being much more tolerated. As a consequence, parabens were present in nearly 70% of cosmetic products, until their safety was questioned.

Allergenic problems linked to preservatives have led some cosmetic manufacturers to look for non-chemical alternatives to protect their formulations, including new formulation concepts, sterilisation processes or protective packaging. Experts will take stock of the latest innovations in this field at a conference organised by Premium Beauty News in Paris on January 23, 2014.