The Harmful Preservative Lurking in Practically Everything

One of my Methylisothiazolinone reactions. This is nothing compared to some of my flair-ups.

One of my Methylisothiazolinone reactions. This is nothing compared to some of my flair-ups.

The preservative Methylisothiazolinone made news recently due to increased instances of allergic contact dermatitis resulting from the use of baby wipes. Horrible pictures of children with cracked and bleeding mouths and stories of severe rash surfaced. I’m sorry for these babies, but am thrilled to see this problem featured in mainstream media. As someone who has a severe sensitivity to Methylisothiazolinone, this ingredient has been a part of my consciousness for years. It is a synthetic antimicrobial preservative found in pretty much any bath, beauty, and cleaning product on the market (including baby wipes).  It can cause severe contact dermatitis in those who have a sensitivity. Even worse, according to the The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is a neurotoxin and “prolonged exposure to low levels of MIT and related compounds may have damaging consequences to the developing nervous system.”

Simply said, whether allergic or not, no one should use products that contain this preservative, especially when pregnant.

For years, I lived with redness, cracking, and bleeding on my face. An allergist dismissed me and told me it was probably just a reaction to my nail polish. I looked at him in disgust as I sat there in my park ranger uniform (I was working for the National Park Service at the time. How many park rangers do you know who wear loads of make-up?) and said, “I don’t wear nail polish and make-up.” Another allergist was at a loss and sent me for food allergy testing. I even had a flair-up the day before my wedding. I desperately ran to the mall to get some concealer, which in the long run probably made it worse. I always say I knew my husband was a keeper because he met me when I was in the middle of one of my worst reactions.

When I finally went to a dermatologist, he took one look at me and said “Why didn’t you come to me sooner? You have one of the most classic cases of contact dermatitis I have ever seen!” I told him my allergist stories and he just sighed. He patch tested me and the patch with Methylisothiazolinone on it reacted so severely that I had a scar on my back for years.

I began to read labels and found that pretty much everything in my shower and on my vanity had Methylisothiazolinone in it. I began to read labels in the store, although I have come across many products, including organics, that don’t list MIT and I still get a reaction. Shame on the manufacturer.

My dermatologist now prints me a list of approved products from the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s database.  Every once in awhile, one of the products will change their formula and I will get a reaction. I have to carry my own hand soap so I can wash my hands in public restrooms. I can’t use the disinfecting wipes at work without putting gloves on first. I can’t take free samples from people at the mall.

Manufacturers use Methylisothiazolinone because it is inexpensive and it works. But, the outcry from seeing babies with such horrible allergic contact dermatitis is starting to make its mark. Kimberly-Clark announced it will stop using Methylisothiazolinone in its wet wipes (Source, Health Day). If only they would stop putting it in everything they manufacture.

I encourage you to read labels and know what is in your bath, beauty, and cleaning products. Many of the ingredients are endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins. If you have a reaction, consider what new products you have started to use in the last month – allergic contact dermatitis may take a few weeks to develop. Discontinue use and see if the rash subsides. If you cannot solve a contact dermatitis issue on your own, see a dermatologist for patch testing. The Wellness Wife encourages you to listen to your body. Don’t make it have to scream at you!

Tomorrow, I will discuss some of the other ingredients you should avoid when buying bath and beauty products.

20 thoughts on “The Harmful Preservative Lurking in Practically Everything

    1. Lisa Post author

      Unsettling is right! I belong to a Facebook support group and you should see some of the horrible reactions people get! I’m a minor case compared to them.

  1. Susan F.

    Poor babies! And I am sorry you had to suffer so long before you figured out the cause. It is amazing how we can learn something is harmful, but companies continue to put it in their products. Thanks for this enlightening post.

    1. Lisa Post author

      You’re welcome! So many people are allergic to this ingredient and doctors just pass it off as eczema. Just recently had another flareup because my detergent changed formulas.

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  4. Maggie

    Olay makeup remover wipes always made my face breakout and I hardly breakout to anything. Who knows what kind of harmful chemicals they have in them!

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