Get access

Preservatives and fragrances in selected consumer-available cosmetics and detergents


  • Conflicts of interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. Funding by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.

Kerem Yazar, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Box 210, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: +46 8524 80042; Fax: +46 8 336981.


Background. Preservatives and fragrances are important and frequent skin sensitizers, found in a wide range of products intended for personal and occupational use.

Objectives. To examine the use of preservatives and fragrances in certain cosmetics and detergents on the market. The product types studied were shampoos, hair conditioners, liquid soaps, wet tissues, washing-up liquids, and multi-purpose cleaners.

Materials/methods. Ingredient labels of 204 cosmetic products and ingredient data sheets of 97 detergents, available on company websites, were examined.

Results. The preservatives most frequently identified were phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, sodium benzoate, propylparaben, and methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone. Parabens were found in 44% of cosmetics and 9% of detergents; formaldehyde-releasers in 25% of cosmetics and 8% of detergents; and isothiazolinones in 23% of cosmetics and 28% of detergents. The fragrances most frequently identified were linalool, limonene, hexyl cinnamal, butylphenyl methylpropional, and citronellol. Eighty-eight per cent of the products contained fragrances, and any of the 26 fragrances requiring labelling were found in half of the cosmetics and one-third of the detergents.

Conclusions. Several preservatives and fragrances with well-known skin-sensitizing potential were common in the examined product types. Such products may be used several times a day by consumers and workers.