What is it?

“Benzalkonium chloride, also known as BZK, BKC, BAC, alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride and ADBAC, is a type of cationic surfactant. It is an organic salt classified as a quaternary ammonium compound.” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This substance belongs to the groups:

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) identifies that “this substance causes severe skin burns and eye damage, is very toxic to aquatic life, is very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects, is harmful if swallowed, is harmful in contact with skin, is harmful if inhaled and causes serious eye damage. At least one company has indicated that the substance classification is affected by impurities or additives.”

Benzalkonium chloride is restricted for use in cosmetics in Canada and the EU. Maximum concentration permitted is 0.1 % (preservative) and 3 % (rinse-off products).  Reported contact allergy has occurred already at concentrations as low as 0.1%.

The Contact Dermatitis Institute has included benzalkonium chloride in their Allergen Database.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that benzalkonium chloride is “not generally recognized as safe and effective” but mentions no details as there are still data gaps and studies to be completed. The final rule regarding this substance is expected in December 2018.

How is it used?

This ingredient is often used in cosmetics* as a preservative (antimicrobial), cleansing agent and conditioning agent (in rinse-of hair care products). It can be found in products such as antiseptics, mouthwashes, sunscreens, moisturizers, pharmaceuticals, detergents and fabric softeners.

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”.

Read about the other ingredients.


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