What is it?

“Quaternium-15 (systematic name: hexamethylenetetramine chloroallyl chloride) is a quaternary ammonium salt … Chemical formula C9H16Cl2N4..” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This substance belongs to the groups:

Quaternium-15 is one of many substances that forms formaldehyde in cosmetic products, i.e releases formaldehyde. Hence, the use of this substance could potentially have the same effects as formaldehyde.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) classifies this substance as “toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects, is a flammable solid, is harmful if swallowed, causes skin irritation and may cause an allergic skin reaction, substance is toxic in contact with skin, causes serious eye irritation, is suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child and may cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.”

The EU has concluded that quaternium-15 “use in cosmetic products may not be safe for the consumers.” But so far there are no restrictions for the use of the substance in cosmetics within the EU.

Because this substance releases formaldehyde, it is on the Red List* from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (previously the Breast Cancer Fund).


This substance may form formaldehyde in cosmetic products and may therefore be contaminated  by:

“The Red List includes chemicals found in personal care products that pose serious, chronic health concerns including cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive and developmental harm. The list also flags chemicals that are banned or have use restrictions by the U.S. or other world governments, ingredients that adversely impact worker health, and ingredients that are widely used in products marketed to women of color.” – Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

How is it used?

Quaternium-15 is used as a preservative and antistatic agent in cosmetics*. It can be found in a wide variety of products, including eye shadows, foundations, facial powders, body washes, mascaras, shampoos, conditioner, hair colors, facial cleansers, bronzers and nail treatments.

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”.

Did you find this ingredient in a product?

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