You may have heard the news or even seen a TikTok pop up discussing the class action lawsuit filed against Unilever, the makers of TRESemmé. Two women say they suffered hair loss and scalp burns from TRESemmé Keratin Hair Smoothing Shampoo and Keratin Hair Smoothing Shampoo Conditioner and note the company failed to warn them about what they call a dangerous chemical in the ingredients.
The ingredient, DMDM hydantoin, is now on the radar of many consumers as the news of the lawsuit continues to spread. In the filing, the claimants state that, “DMDM hydantoin, a preservative known to release formaldehyde, is a known carcinogen, and the products’ use of DMDM hydantoin can cause or contribute to hair loss and scalp irritation.”
According to ChemicalSafetyFacts.org, a site developed and maintained by the American Chemistry Council, “DMDM hydantoin is an odorless white, crystalline substance that works as an antimicrobial agent and preservative in cosmetics and personal care products.”
Other Hair-Care Products
Recent social media posts have identified other shampoos by brands like Suave, VO5, Neutrogena, and more that also contain the same preservative ingredient. A recent TikTok went viral when user @mikaaeeliah shared screenshots of more than a dozen popular drugstores shampoo and conditioners and warned viewers to immediately stop using these hair-care products.
To get a handle on the situation, we talked to cosmetic chemist and NewBeauty Brain Trust member Ginger King who shed some light on DMDM. “DMDM Hydantoin is known as formaldehyde donor which can release formaldehyde, thus it is used for preservation to kill bugs,” she explains.
While formaldehyde-releasing preservatives help prevent microbes from growing in water-based products, the class action lawsuit is spreading awareness on how they affect consumers at large and how they’ve been linked to certain skin reactions. “Long-term use may cause contact allergy as documented in some research,” adds King. “As far as hair loss, if there is allergic action on scalp, it potentially can get people to scratch the head and induce breakage. However, this is only a hypothesis and it’s yet to be proven if the people who experienced hair loss had also experienced itchy scalp symptoms to start with.”