Woman washing hair with shampoo in the bathroom.

These 10 Shampoos Are Made Without DMDM Hydantoin—So You Don't Have to Worry About  Hair Loss

A class action suit was filed against Tresemmé because of it. 
By Rachel Nussbaum
January 12, 2021
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It's more than a little emotionally damaging to lose clumps of hair in the shower, especially when the culprit could be a product you trusted to help your hair look its best. That's unfortunately the case for a number of people across America, as the formaldehyde-releasing preservative DMDM hydantoin has come into the spotlight for allegedly causing hair loss

The news blew up on social media platforms like TikTok over the past week thanks to a wave of videos focusing on the class action lawsuit filed against Tresemmé in November. The lawsuit is based around the inclusion of DMDM hydantoin in the brand's Keratin Smooth Color Shampoo, and the hair loss that, according to the suit, over 100 people saw after using it. 

This isn't the first time the impact of formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in personal care products has been called into question. The suit's filing includes the nugget that in 2012, Suave, also owned by beauty conglomerate Unilever, recalled its Keratin Infusion products in light of complaints that it caused hair loss and scalp irritation. The line included DMDM hydantoin, which is found in many hair and skincare products. 

Last year, there was a similar class action lawsuit brought against the curly hair product brand DevaCurl. Facebook groups discussing people's inordinate hair thinning gained over 60,000 members and, as of April, the New York Times writes that there were at least 10 class-action lawsuits pending in which customers say DevaCurl damaged their scalps and made their hair fall out in clumps. Although those suits didn't name a specific ingredient of concern, it's worth noting that some DevaCurl formulas also include a formaldehyde-releasing preservative, diazolidinyl urea. 

That said, dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology and an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells Health that, while direct contact to formaldehyde-releasers can lead to allergic contact dermatitis, it's rare. Dermatitis can look like red, itchy, flaky skin, he says, and can temporarily interfere with functioning hair follicles, leading to shedding. 

But so many people having an issue with a certain kind of ingredient does stir up doubt—and Dr. Sharima Rasanayagam, science director of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, confirms that when it comes to a known carcinogen, irritant, and allergen like formaldehyde, any exposure is worse than none. Small doses of it can trigger reactions in sensitive individuals, Rasanayagam says, either from encountering it in different products or from continued use of just one. 

The good news? Zeichner says it's unlikely there'll be any long-term damage and, while unpleasant, allergic contact dermatitis isn't harmful to your overall health. There's no way of predicting who will react to formaldehyde-releasers, he says, and genetics play a determining role—so if you have an history of eczema or other skin allergies, you could be more likely to develop a reaction.   

If you want to be on the safe side, the even better news is that there are tons of shampoos that don't contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives like DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, or quaternium-15, so you don't have to wonder if your hair routine is causing hair loss.  

We love these 10 shampoos without DMDM hydantoin: 

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