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2D structural formula of Polyaminopropyl biguanide (PMHB)


What is it?

“Polyaminopropyl biguanide (PHMB), with the chemical formula (C5H11N5)n, is a polymer or oligomer where biguanide functional groups are connected by hexyl hydrocarbon chains, with varying chain lengths.” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This ingredient belongs to the groups:

PHMB is a CMR substance, meaning it’s classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CRM).

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) classifies polyaminopropyl biguanide (PHMB) as

“fatal if inhaled, causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure, is very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects, is harmful if swallowed, causes serious eye damage, is suspected of causing cancer and may cause an allergic skin reaction.”

How is it used?

Polyaminopropyl biguanide (PHMB) is being used as a preservative to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mould in many cosmetic⋆ and household products. PHMB can for example be found in sanitary napkins, creams, and after-shave balms.

PHMB is banned for use in cosmetic products in the EU since January 2015 but the substance can still sometimes be found in products, even from major brands, according to the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

This is because industry associations, led by Cosmetics Europe, lobbied that the current law should be re-interpreted to allow low doses of PHMB in products.

Doses of 0.1 percent PHMB is now allowed in certain products, but as the exact dose do not have to be written on the ingredients list, it is uncertain to know just how much is in a product.

Read more about the lobbying and who was behind it in our Instagram post.

⋆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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