Skin Reactions to MI Containing Baby Wipes- Looking a bit deeper

Mi Containing baby wipes

Colin’s Beauty Pages has been getting massive traffic over the last couple of days from people searching out information on methylisothiazolinone.  I gather the issue has got some media coverage over in the US – which is where most of it is coming from.  I don’t know exactly what form it has taken but it looks like the emphasis has been on MI containing baby wipes.

In fact I got a specific question from one recent visitor who said

 But what I read said the reactions are worse now because they have upped the amount in baby wipes tremendously.

The facts are that wet wipes are one of the biggest challenges to preserve effectively.  Wet wipes are also very much a mass consumption item that people buy from supermarkets.  So the ‘they’ in that comment in reality refers to supermarket buyers.  These are people with an enormous amount of power and influence.  A manufacturer’s whole business can be affected by the decisions of a handful of people.  These buyers tend to be smart and astute people.  (With exceptions – try yesterday’s post on Whole Foods Banned List for an example of a truly stupid purchasing policy.)

I can quite easily imagine how a buyer might well be swayed by someone who pitched to them the idea that their wet wipe had only one preservative listed compared to the competitors two or three.  It sounds like a smart decision.  And in fact it is.  Although most people don’t give these things a second thought when you are selling things by the million a one in a thousand occurrence matters.  So if a small number of people are scrutinising packs for preservatives they don’t like,  every preservative listed is a potential sales loser.

Getting back to MI containing baby wipes, there are not many preservatives that will work on their own in wet wipes.  So I can see the appeal of methylisothiazolinone (MI).  As I have said in a previous post, it used to be necessary to use it combination with methylchloroisothizolinione (MCI).   The logic was good – MI on its own is less irritating than MCI.  Both work well, so why not just use one of them?  The trouble is that MI on its own needs to used at a higher level than MI/MCI.  So although you are only using one preservative, you are using a lot more preservative.

This is a general rule in fact.  With a bit of patience you could come up with a cocktail of lots of different preservatives that would work much better than the individual components.  This would be a little trickier to manage- every ingredient on the inventory is more cost for warehousing, testing etc.  But it would mean that you would get far few reactions to your products.  It would also be good for the environment since you would need to make less in the first place and less would end up in water courses.

But it is a non-starter.  The supermarkets wouldn’t buy it.  And in financial terms they’d be right.  The media much prefer a single ingredient scare story, so you’d get more bad publicity for using whatever is the bête noire de jour.   There are some very clever marketing people about, but I don’t think they could sell the ‘it’s got lots of different preservatives in so it is less likely to make your skin react’ story.




And the truth is despite the media the actual number of skin reactions brands actually experience is tiny.  They’d rather have none. They’d happily change the formulations to minimise skin reactions.  In fact this has been done with quite a lot of success with fragrances.  But because of the way we buy our groceries, allergic reactions to preservatives in personal care products including baby wipes are going to be a fact of life.

4 thoughts on “Skin Reactions to MI Containing Baby Wipes- Looking a bit deeper

  1. sally a

    I use baby wipes for bathroom hygiene. About two months ago I switched to Huggies wipes (which contain MI) and ended up with an allergic response to the product. I have had problems with shampoos and conditioners, with lots of itching and scalp irritation after shampooing. After reading your blog, I now know to avoid products with MI preservatives. Thank you for your good work.

  2. Bonnie

    My husband and I have used Cottonelle bathroom wipes daily for quite awhile. Recently, we both got rashes, his severe enough to see a doctor. It was an allergic reaction to methylisothiazolinone. It cleared up pretty quickly when we stopped using them and now I make my own wipes using distilled water and a little coconut oil or just plain old witch hazel. I now read labels more carefully but it seems this ingredient or similar ones are in nearly everything. Bonnie

  3. Sophie

    I have 4 kids ages 16,14,12,8 & love them dearly. For the last 16 years I read & read & slowly started with cutting one item from my shopping list…margarine. Then everything followed from there. I find better healthier products to eat and use. Everyday products that can do the same but are better for you, as close to natural & affordable as possible, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soaps etc the list is never ending. I have list as long as… My question to not only families but to the product producers, WHY would you add and use dangerous ingredients that could and do hurt our babies, our kid, mums, sisters, brothers, dad’s, aunties, uncles, granddads, grandmas….. STOP buying/making them & they will change! If we don’t stick together it will continue. Thank you for your information, every communication helps, cheers!

  4. Anonymous

    just reading the ingredients on a bottle tresemme ,thinking this may be causing me to have a rash so going to change try to find a more natural one or one without methylchloroisothiazolinone ,on the directions it says to avoid eyes unless you are having your hair washed at the hairdresser how the hell do you do that

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