Dan Thompson: Beauty Busted


The Dirty Dozen - Part 3 Urea

The Truth About Formaldehyde

Continuing analysis of the “The Dirty Dozen – Cosmetics Chemicals to Avoid.” Today I am looking at the claim that urea causes cancer.

Urea is a preservative. It releases formaldehyde killing microbes, fungus, and bacteria.

According to the report:

1. “Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.”
2. “Cancer research has focused on inhalation of formaldehyde.”
3. “Formaldehyde may off-gas from cosmetics.”

According to the US National Cancer Institute:

1. A 1995 study showed that number to be only 0.99% of consumers suffer from contact dermatitis as a result of applying urea.

2. A 1980 CIR study showed 0.5% concentrations of urea had no irritating effects. The study was repeated in 2002 with the same results.

3. A 1980 study (repeated in 1999 and 2001) showed when 5mg/L of urea were inhaled there were adverse effects on lab rats. The most significant was that of body weight loss.

4. In repeated studies conducted from 1980 – 2002 topically applied urea in 200mg/kg, 1300mg/kg, 5% concentrations and 10% concentrations showed skin irritation and inflammation at the application site.

Skin irritation is a concern but by no means a cancer. By medical definition contact dermatitis is a “localized rash caused by contact with a foreign substance” – or in plain English – an allergy (not cancer).

In cosmetics urea:

1. Is allowed up to a 0.6% concentration.

2. Has never been shown to off-gas (risking inhalation).

3. Is tolerated by over 99% of consumers.

4. (In a 50g jar of cream) represents 0.06% of the minimum dose where irritation was observed.

A consumer would have to apply, wait for it, 83, 300 jars of product before reaching a dose were irritation occurs.

Using 4 jars of moisturizer per year (the national average) from the age of 12 until 81 (national life expectancy) the lifetime use is only 276 jars!