Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and Why We Like the Precautionary Principle


As those of you who follow us might know, we care deeply about making cosmetics ‘clean’. – For 30 years Margaret has been striving to create exceptionally pure skin care – focused on bringing a smile to highly sensitive and allergy-prone skin.

So we’re delighted that the Soil Association is continuing its campaign to completely ban the use of two high-irritancy cosmetic preservatives, Methylisothiazolinone (MI or MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI or CMIT).

(Just to mention that as a brand approved by the rigorous standards of the Soil Association, we do not use – or wish to use – Methylisothiazolinone or MCI in Odylique and Odylique products!)

Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone is found in a range of high-street products from cosmetics to baby wipes and even household cleaning products. However, the British Association of Dermatologists likens the incidence of skin sensitivity to these preservatives to an epidemic outbreak. One in ten patients whom dermatologists are treating with eczema or dermatitis are reportedly allergic to MI or MCI.

In years past, a blend of the two ingredients was more widely used. However, earlier concerns over MCI lead manufacturers to start using MI alone, but in higher concentrations. And concerns over the safety of paraben preservatives have led to a much more widespread use of MI in skincare. These factors may explain the rise in allergic reactions.

The EU now looks set to ban MI in leave-on products, but will continue to allow their use in rinse-off products (which includes shower gel and shampoo). But as Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association points out, “it is not right that a consumer needs a degree in chemistry to be sure they are avoiding such ingredients in a skin or face product, nor that the EU are repeatedly failing to eliminate these preservatives when the evidence about their harmful effects is so clear”.

We also think that it is madness. Shampoo and shower gel can still be left on the body and scalp for a number of minutes; potentially long enough to trigger sensitivity. Moreover, the whole approach to cosmetic ingredient safety seems back-to-front: If an ingredient has irritancy potential, surely it should have to be safety tested in all concentrations before being put into a cosmetic product available for sale! As it stands, consumers are being treated like guinea pigs by the mainstream beauty industry.

We much prefer the ‘precautionary principle’ to determine whether we feel an ingredient is acceptable for use in our organic health and beauty products. This means that if any research casts doubt over the safety of an ingredient to humans or the environment, we will not use it in our products; it’s the ‘if in doubt, do without’ rule!

This leads us to avoid all synthetic ingredients, common irritants and allergens. (And because of our focus on very sensitive skin we even avoid wheat, soy, common allergen nut oils, salicylates and dairy derivatives.) To maintain a reasonable product ‘shelf-life’, we rely on a combination of proven, safe antimicrobials found in nature and the broad spectrum of antioxidants naturally present in the plant oils and herbs we use.

Plus, our products are tested on our panel of volunteers who all have allergy-prone and sensitive skin.

The precautionary principle also guides the Soil Association’s standards for organic health and beauty products. So if you buy a product with the Soil Association logo on, you know that the ingredients have been rigorously checked and for any potential harm (either to humans or the environment).

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