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Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

* A fat soluble synthetic compound, in the form of a white/yellow crystalline solid. Also known as butylhydroxytoluene. See our feature article on BHT article.


Primarily acts as an antioxidant food additive because of its ability to preserve fats. In cosmetics, it's also used as a preservative. As an antioxidant, it helps fight against the deterioration of cosmetic products caused by chemical reactions with oxygen. It's also known to work synergistically with other antioxidants. It's mostly used in makeup products such as eyeliner, lipstick, blush and foundation, but you can also find it  in various other cosmetic products like moisturizer, cleanser and perfume.

Safety Measures/Side Effects:

The FDA considers this ingredient as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) to use as a food additive up to concentrations of .02%. Furthermore, the CIR Expert Panel has assessed this ingredient as safe to use in cosmetic products. However, a great deal of controversy has surrounds ingredient, mostly because of its suspected carcinogenic and anti-cancer properties.

Extensive research has shown high doses of this ingredient to cause significant damage to the lungs, liver and kidneys. Oral consumption of this ingredient has also been shown to have toxic effects on the body's blood coagulation system. With regards to skin care, however, the CIR Expert Panel has assessed that dermal application of BHT provides a very limited and gradual penetration of the skin- one that does NOT become absorbed into the bloodstream and expose the body to any of BHT's potential harmful side effects. Furthermore, a handful of studies have also demonstrated BHT's ability to function as an anti-cancer agent. However, while some studies have been shown it to prevent the formation of carcinogens in the body, several other studies suggest that it does not prevent cancer, and may, in fact, make it worse. For more detailed information on the potential dangers of BHT, read this related BHT article.

Because there lies a significant amount of conflicting research regarding the carcinogenic effects of BHT, it remains a controversial ingredient around the world. The US has banned it from being used in baby food because of its potential association with hyperactivity in children. It's also banned from food in Japan. When it comes to cosmetics, however, it is generally regarded as safe to use in low concentrations ranging from .01-.1%.

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