Latest News on MI


I get a lot of traffic to this blog from people interested in methylisothiazolinone, or as it is now known MI.   For people who haven’t been following the story, here’s a quick recap.  MI has been used for about 40 years in combination with a closely related chemical called methylchloroisothiazolinone.  I’ll call that MCI.   The combination works extremely well at very low levels.  Its Achilles Heel is that it causes a lot of allergic reactions when used at higher levels.  This took formulators a while to work out when it was first introduced.  But the level was scaled down and the reactions went down. 

Recently the use of MI alone has been approved.  On paper this ought to cause fewer reactions, but following its adoption reactions have actually increased.  This has led to dermatologists getting more people turning up with a reaction to MI and the MI/MCI mixture.  This got picked up by the media in the UK who have made it into a mini-scare story.   Someone has actually now started a petition to get the UK parliament to ban it, though it has not yet attracted many supporters.

But there is a problem here.  The EU’s scientific committee, the SCCS, has looked at the issue and made some recommendations.  The combination of MI/MCI will now be banned in leave on products, and the use of MI will not be permitted in products that are already using MI/MCI – not that I ever noticed a product that did this.  The maximum use level has also been reduced for MI alone.   These new rules come into force in June.  (There is a further six months allowed for companies to comply with it.)

I am not sure that this ruling is particularly good news for anyone.   If you have an MI allergy you will still have to look out for it in leave on  products, and you’ll have to remember that it turns up in household and DIY products as well.  But it means you’ll have more luck finding MI free moisturisers and the like.  I wouldn’t plan a big binge at your local beauty counter though.  MI is still theoretically permitted in leave on products – it is only the combination that is banned.  In practice neither MI/MCI nor MI are used that much in leave on products anyway, so it may not make very much difference in practice.

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If this new rule does lead to formulators switching away from MI and MI/MCI – which is quite likely because nobody likes to use materials with a bad image – then there may be some more options available for the MI sensitive.

For the vast majority of people who don’t have a problem with MI you can ignore the whole issue.  There will be a small number of people who don’t react to MI who will react to the alternatives.  Basically the problem will be switched from one small group of people to another – though luckily for the legislators there will be no way to know whether you fall into this group.

It is tempting to bring in bans and restrictions.    But the more you restrict the number of preservatives that can be used, the fewer options there are out there and the bigger the problem sufferers have.

I think that the only sensible long term solution is to bring in clearer labelling of preservatives and extend it to all categories of consumer goods, not just cosmetics.  You can work out what to avoid if you have a problem now, but the ingredient lists are hard to read for consumers who don’t happen to be chemists.

SCCS Opinion – Hardcore science geeks only

And here is the same story on my blog for professional beauty experts, with full practical details if you need to take action to comply with these regulations.

New Regulations on Methylisothiazolinone (Link broken at the moment – bear with me)

5 thoughts on “Latest News on MI”

  1. Hi Colin,

    This is a subject which fascinates us, and we too get a lot of hits and queries.

    I’m confused over the new regulations though …

    I understand that MI/MCI mixture is now banned in leave-on products, and permitted at 15ppm in wash off.

    I understand that MI/MCI and additional MI cannot be both used in the same product, be it leave-on or wash-off.

    What I can’t get clear on is whether MI on its own can be used in leave-on or wash-off products, and if so, in what concentration in both cases?

    Sorry … Have read your posts, and the opinion papers, but am still unclear.

    Very best – Alex.

  2. Colin. About six weeks ago saw article about methylisothiazolinone in baby wipes causing dermatitis. Don’t use them, but did check my 7th Generation dish soap, and saw this was one of the ingredients. I didn’t have a rash, but randomly decided to switch to a dish soap without methylisothiazolinone.
    This is where it gets weird. For several years, I have been having some problems that were getting worse and worse, and have blamed everything from prescription medicines, to tap water, to various foods. The problems were 1) big spots in front of my eyes for first hour after waking up, which made me think I was going progressively blind (optometrist couldn’t explain it), 2) pain in neck/spine, causing troubled sleep and making my hands go numb, and 3) severe vertigo (had to walk with a cane to keep from falling over).
    Have been to a doctor about these things, sent to a specialist, and nothing they did changed these symptoms. Then I stopped using a dish soap that had methylisothiazolinone (and had only been using it three or four times a week, for just a few minutes each time), and all of these symptoms have gone away. This doesn’t make any sense to me, as this chemical is just supposed to cause a rash. But in six weeks I have had some really scary and dramatic symptoms just go away.
    So, just in case someone else is having symptoms like this, I wanted to post my experience. This was from using a few drops on a sponge, a few times a week, and washing my hands thoroughly afterwards. And none of the symptoms I was having seem to be reported anywhere in regard to this chemical.

  3. Colin, since water-based shampoos and such really do require some sort of preservative to keep nasties from growing in, I have a question for you: Does anyone make a shampoo that is in dry form? Not a dry shampoo, but sort of like KoolAid, where there is a small packet that is dumped into water, and then used immediately. I have done some web searches, and nothing comes up. For those of us that are very sensitive to various preservatives and colors and such, it would truly be a blessing to have something that just wouldn’t need a preservative, because it would be dry to begin with.

  4. Denise Hilburd

    Hi Colin. Having just had a bad reaction to MI, I’d like to find out the ingredients of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Sun Defense For Face SPF50. I can’t find them anywhere. I read somewhere that you can see a list of the ingredients for every cosmetic/household product on sale in the UK by Googling something like MSDS followed by the name of product but I must have got the acronym wrong because it doesn’t work. Could you help please?

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