2D structural formula of Acrylamide


What is it?

“Acrylamide (or acrylic amide) is a chemical compound with the chemical formula C3H5NO. Its IUPAC name is prop-2-enamide. It is a white odorless crystalline solid, soluble in water, ethanol, ether, and chloroform.” Acrylamide wiki

Acrylamide toxicity

This substance belongs to the groups:

Acrylamide regulation

This chemical is prohibited for use in cosmetics in Canada and the EU. The EU, where it is often called akrylamid, also has a regulation that limits the amount allowed in the compound polyacrylamide. Polyacrylamide is a compound that contains repeated molecules of acrylamide.

The United States, on the other hand, does not currently (2018) regulate the amount of acrylamide allowed in products containing polyacrylamide.

Acrylamide – cancer and other side effects

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has registered the substance as

“toxic if swallowed, may cause genetic defects, may cause cancer, causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure, is harmful in contact with skin, causes serious eye irritation, is harmful if inhaled, causes skin irritation, may cause an allergic skin reaction and is suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child.”

Acrylamide is on ECHA’s Candidate List of “Substances of Very High Concern.” 

Also, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners has classified acrylamide as a carcinogen, developmental toxicant, and an occupational hazard.

They have also included this ingredient on their Red List. The list contains ingredients that they recommend that you avoid due to their serious negative effects on human health.

Enhanced skin absorption

This substance has in studies proved to be substantially absorbed through the skin. In other words, if you are using a product containing this ingredient it will easily penetrate and be absorbed by your skin.

This could also mean that acrylamide enhances also the absorption of other ingredients from the same product.

Possible contamination

The following substances may contain impurities from acrylamide:

Acrylamide uses

Acrylamide in cosmetics

In cosmetics, you will mainly find acrylamide in products such as facial cleansers, moisturizers, and anti-aging products.

Two of its main functions include:

  • stabilizer – improves products stability and shelf-life)
  • foam builder and binder – makes the product formulation “stick together”) in cosmetics*.

Acrylamide in food

Acrylamide is one of those chemicals that also occurs naturally. It can be formed in some starchy foods when you cook them at high temperatures.

Some examples are:

  • potato chips
  • cereals
  • cookies
  • toasts
  • french fries

Acrylamide coffee

Unfortunately, this chemical can also be found in coffee. It is, similar to when you find it in foods, formed naturally in a chemical reaction that occurs during roasting (high temperatures).

How to avoid

  • In cosmetics – If you want to avoid buying and using products that contain acrylamide, use our free Ingredient Scanner. You simply have to scan the ingredients and all harmful chemicals, including those containing acrylamide, gets marked. So you can avoid them easily.
  • In food – Limit high-risk foods and cooking methods (see above). Also, try to avoid storing potatoes in the fridge and cook food until brown or burned.
  • In coffee – Dark roasted coffee, especially instant coffee, are likely to contain high levels of acrylamide. If you are a coffee drinker,  you can limit exposure by choosing lighter roasts.

As cigarettes contain acrylamide and other toxic chemicals, it is advisable to limit exposure from other sources to reduce the risk of developing cancer.

We use the European Commissions definition of Cosmetics:
“Cosmetics range from everyday hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to luxury beauty items including perfumes and makeup”.

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