There have been a number of reports in this week’s national press about people suffering allergic reactions to skincare products containing MI (methylisothiazolinone). It’s used as a preservative in products ranging from body scrubs to moisturisers, sunscreens to wet wipes.

mi-allergyWe highlighted the problem about a year ago (view the blog post) and immediately received a response from one of our customers, Gay Colenutt. She was brave enough to allow us to post a photo showing the effect one of these products containing MI had on her face and neck (right). Gay told us:

“This is what MI allergy did to me – plus cervical lymphatics were in total overdrive. Now I don’t buy any supermarket/chemist-type products for hair, skin or cleaning, etc. Absolutely love my Botanicals products, and once again have skin to be proud of.”


The health pages in Tuesday’s Times newspaper contained a reader’s question asking: “Are many people allergic to moisturisers? I’m always careful to buy products designed for sensitive skin but my face has become puffy and itchy. And the more moisturiser I use, the worse it seems to get.”

The Times doctor said that the most likely cause was an allergic reaction to MI. And suggested that she visits her GP as the recommended treatment is to use a steroid cream.

BBC Watchdog highlights problem

The doctor also suggested Googling ‘MI allergy’ for more information. There is a lot of information on the web. This report on the BBC’s Watchdog pages highlights Johnson & Johnson’s response to complaints about their Piz Buin 1 Day Long lotion (below).

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Products which include methylisothiazolinone are still available in high street chemists, despite manufacturers’ promises to discontinue them.

The company initially refused to amend the formula because they claimed instances of reaction were small. But when more than 150 other consumers contacted the programme following the Watchdog report saying they had also suffered allergic reactions, Johnson & Johnson quickly changed their minds.

Here’s their official response following the BBC programme:

“In the UK, MI is currently used in PIZ BUIN® In Sun Radiant Face Cream, PIZ BUIN® Tan & Protect™ Tan Intensifying Sun Spray and PIZ BUIN® 1 Day Long Lotion. All these products will either be discontinued or reformulated for 2014.

“Some previous PIZ BUIN® In Sun and Mountain products also contained MI but were either discontinued or reformulated for 2013. The only other product on the UK market to contain MI is Neutrogena Visibly Clear Blackhead Eliminating Daily Scrub, a rinse off product.”

The BBC Watchdog programme was broadcast in September 2013. I checked out the situation this morning (21st August 2014) and found the lotion still for sale in our local Boots. Which is when I took the photograph of the ingredients listing above, which clearly shows the product still contains MI – along with a fairly long list of similarly alarming-sounding chemical compounds.

It really shouldn’t be this way

It seems a scandal that the only time these large companies seem prepared to take concerns about potentially harmful chemicals in skincare products seriously is when a media organisation as large and powerful as the BBC highlights the issues. It really shouldn’t be this way. Consumers shouldn’t need to take a magnifying glass to the ingredients listings to check what’s in these products.

Wendy launched Botanicals in 2004 when one of our young daughters suffered an allergic reaction to a shampoo which was promoted as being both ‘herbal’ and ‘natural’;

“When my nine-year-old daughter came out in a rash after using the shampoo, I took a closer look at the ingredients listed on the label. I was surprised to find it was full of potentially harmful detergents (SLS and SLES) and parabens (chemical preservatives). The tiny amount of herbal ingredients used may well have been grown under organic conditions, with no petrochemicals, but the shampoo itself was full of them. Read more on our website.

EU regulation changes to blame?

Wendy thinks recent changes in EU regulations may have caused the increase in outbreaks of MI allergic reactions, by permitting stronger concentrations than previously allowed:

“MI has traditionally been combined with another preservative – methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) – in a three-to-one ratio. But concerns about MCI causing allergies meant some manufacturers withdrew it and started using MI alone. This has meant that the concentration of MI has been included at a much higher concentration (up to a 25-fold increase) to achieve the same results as an antimicrobial preservative.”

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