German risk assessment body warns over use of depilatory creams

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ph Bfr

The Germany-based Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has issued a public warning over excessive use of depilatory creams containing the chemical thioglycolic acid.

The BfR warns that, if creams containing this chemical are not applied correctly, then this might lead to ‘light to medium skin irritations’ can then lead to a variety of different allergic reactions if the application is repeated.

“For that reason package inserts of depilatory creams should contain corresponding information and products should only be used according to these instructions,”​ said professor Dr. Andreas Hensel, president of the BfR.

Increased use of depilatory creams aggrevates the problem

The BfR is concerned that consumers are applying depilatory creams in increasingly large amounts as well as more frequently, which has in turn led to an increase in the number of cases of reported skin irritations.

The organization says that at this point it cannot be determined whether or not it is the extreme alkaline pH level of this type of depilatory formulation or it is the thioglycolic acid that can be attributable to such skin irritations.

The chemical has been used for many decades and was primarily developed for the use of depilatory creams, often in a salt form. It is also a precursor to ammonium thioglycolate (TGA), which can also be used in hair care perm solutions.

For depilatory purposes, thioglycolic acid works by breaking down the bonds in the hair protein keratin, essentially weakening the hair follicle to the point where it can be scraped off at skin level, preventing hair growth for between two and five days.

Limit of five per cent

The BfR recommends that, in accordance with the German Cosmetics Ordinance, thyoglycolic acid should not be used in concentrations above 5 per cent for depilatory formulations.

Manufacturers are required by EU and German laws to state how depilatory creams are applied on the packaging, and the BfR recommends that these recommendations should be followed closely in an effort to avoid the risk of skin irritation.

Likewise, the organisation underlines that these type of products are not recommended for extensive use, nor should they come into any sort of contact with areas that contain mucous membrane.

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