Are your bath and beauty products causing dermatitis? Quaternium 15 & Formaldehyde

JohnsonsHeadtoToeBabyWashDid you know Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash contains a preservative that releases formaldehyde – a carcinogen and a leading cause of dermatitis?

Yep, that’s right. That staple in many homes contains some not so nice chemicals. I’ve posted before about the problems with the ingredients in Johnson’s Head-to-Toe baby wash. The No More Toxic Tub report from the Campaing for Safe Cosmetics led to several posts about hysterical mommy bloggers.

A new peer-reviewed report published in the Journal of Dermatology Nurses’ Association revisits the problem. The report finds that Quaternium 15, a preservative found in Johnson’s Head to Toe Baby Wash and many other conventional bath and beauty products, may be responsible for dermatitis in many users (dermatitis can be misdiagnosed as eczema).

The report states that Quaternium 15 is “the most sensitizing formaldehyde-releasing preservative and has been repeatedly shown to be a strong allergen that can cause contact dermatitis.”

As quoted in the press release from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “Quaternium 15 is present in an alarmingly high number of baby products, making exposure and sensitization at an early age increasingly common,” said Sharon Jacob, M.D., co-author of the paper and physician at the Department of Medicine and Pediatrics at Rady Children’s Hospital. “This is a concern because repeated exposures to sensitizing chemicals, especially in early life, can cause a person to develop allergic reactions over time. Therefore, we advise parents to choose products without quaternium 15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives whenever possible.”

Okay, so say you want to skip products containing Quaternium 15 or any other formaldhyde donor preservatives. I understand that you don’t want to need a chemistry degree just to shop. So, my general advice is to use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database and look for products with a score of 2 or lower, and with no ingredient about 4. Another general recommendation is to find a company you trust, and use those products.

For baby washes/shampoos,, one way to avoid preservatives is to avoid detergent shampoos as opposed to soap shampoos. Pure castile soap – a vegetable based soap – doesn’t require a preservative because the pH prevents the growth of mold and bacteria. It’s easy to be confused here because most “shampoo” and “body wash” products are actually detergents that require artificial surfactants, emulsifiers and preservatives. There are some safe detergents, but if you want the easiest and quickest way to buy safely, look for pure castile soap like Earth Mama Angel Baby and Dr. Bronners. (Disclosure – if you click on the Earth Mama Angel Baby link over on the left, I make a little money since I’m an affiliate. Also, in connection with my other company, 3 Green Angels, Earth Mama Angel Baby has retained the company to host several Twitter parties.)

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  1. Holly Piper-Smith says:

    Having trouble visiting the links in this post, ex. the one that goes to your older post…

  2. What a great resource!

  3. all natural face cream says:

    Thanks for sharing that review. Didn’t know before that, formaldehyde release may result in dermatitis problem. Nice sharing and keep posting.

  4. Thanks for giving us such a nice information about beauty. Keep sharing your articles/ I love to read this type of article very much. Thanks.

  5. Jeff Pirzinger says:

    A great alternative to Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo and other J&J products with Quaternium 15 & Formaldehyde is Melaleuca’s Koala Pals® Tear-Free Body Wash & Koala Pals® Conditioning Tear-Free Hair Wash. I buy them direct from the manufacturer at a reduced price and I can show you how to get your account setup to purchase a safer alternative for your children, the same way I do. jpirzinger at or (914) 497-1104

  6. Brian Mesidor says:

    Dermatitis can be caused by a lot o things. Most of the time it is caused by allergice reaction to some chemicals and biological organisms like bacteria and viruses. Topical corticosteroids helps a lot in alleviating the itchiness.

  7. Garrett Waldrup says:

    Dermatitis is a general term that describes an inflammation of the skin. There are different types of dermatitis, including seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis (eczema). Although the disorder can have many causes and occur in many forms, it usually involves swollen, reddened and itchy skin. .

    Remember to visit our favorite web blog


  1. […] a week after I noticed the problem, I ran across this article on an ingredient found in many shampoos called quaternium-15.  Imagine my surprise to learn that by chemical reaction, the preservative […]

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