Methylisothiazolinone (MI): problem preservative

The preservative methylisothiazolinone (MI) is used in some cosmetics and household products and can cause severe allergies.

Here is a brief introduction to the problem, plus a short list of MI-free products.

If you’re looking for more in-depth information, including on the diagnosis of MI allergy, labelling laws, and a more extensive database of products, then do see my new site, Methylisothiazolinone Free. It covers not only suitable cosmetics for skin and hair, but also household cleaning products (for kitchen, bathroom, laundry, glass and furniture), wall paints, pet care products, and much more.

The MI Story 
In 2013, two dermatological organisations issued warnings about a relatively new ‘epidemic’ of allergy to MI – a preservative present in wet wipes, skin creams, washing up liquid, sun care, fabric conditioners and many more household cleaners and personal toiletries.

Despite calls for a ban from some quarters, it seems industry has been moving towards only a partial ban (on ‘leave on’ products – i.e. skin creams) and continuing to permit use in ‘rinse off’ products at a low level (0.01% or less) which experts believe should not cause sensitisation to MI. This should, in theory, halt the epidemic. However, those already sensitised will have to continue to read labels on products such as kitchen cleaners, shampoo and shower gels to avoid it.

It seems those with eczema are more susceptible to sensitivity to MI (and other isothiazolinones, such as methylchloroisothiazolinone – or MCI), and as those with eczema are more likely to be atopic, they’re also more likely to have food allergies. It’s possible that those who experience reactions to skincare products and put them down to the food ingredients often found there, may actually be reacting to non-food ingredients – such as fragrances (such as linalool, geraniol, eugenol etc) and preservatives such as MI.

If you think you might be one of them, do not self diagnose. See a doctor or dermatologist who can, if relevant, refer you for patch testing to identify the culprit – although that may not be easy. You may find this article on Contact Dermatitis useful.

Avoiding fragrances and SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) may also help if you have skin sensitivities. Here are some MI-free products.

MI-free Household Cleaning Brands

The following brands avoid MI and other isothiazolinones in ALL products.

Bio-D (US) / Bio-D (UK) – household / bathroom cleaning and laundry / dish washing.
Eco Me (US) / Eco Me (UK) – all natural and SLS free
Greenshield Organic (US) – also free from parabens, SLS/SLES, ammonia and more.
Mangle & Wringer (UK) – natural and MI-free household cleaning
Rockin Green (US) – eco-friendly house and laundry (SLS / parabens free)
Sun & Earth (US) – all natural laundry / kitchen / bathroom cleaners

NB. Even brands which make natural, ‘gentle’ or environmental claims may use MI in some products, so beware. Among them are Ecover, Earth Friendly Products / ECOS, Seventh Generation and Mrs Meyer’s.

MI-free Household Products

All the following products are free from – those additionally fragrance free and/or SLS free may be even better for sensitive or reactive skins.

Laundry Liquid
Bio-D – Concentrated Laundry Liquid (fragrance free, SLS-free)
Ecover – Delicate Laundry Liquid
Ecover – Laundry Liquid ZERO (fragrance free, SLS-free)
Greenscents (UK only) – Lavender Laundry Liquid (SLS-free)

NB. Ecover Non-Bio Laundry Gel DOES contain MI.

Laundry Powder
Bio-D – Concentrated Laundry Powder (fragrance free)
Ecover – Concentrated Non-Bio Washing Powder
Ecover (UK only) – Washing Powder ZERO (fragrance free, SLS-free)

Fabric Conditioner 
Bio-D – Concentrated Fabric Conditioner (some with fragrance, one fragrance free)
Ecover – Fabric Conditioner (SLS-free)
Ecover – Fabric Conditioner ZERO (fragrance free, SLS-free)
Greenscents (UK only) – Lavender Laundry Conditioner

Washing Up Liquid
Bio-D – Concentrated Washing Up Liquid (fragrance free)
Ecover – Washing Up Liquid ZERO
Greenscents (UK only) – Citrus Washing Up Liquid (SLS-free)

Dishwasher Tablets
Ecover – Zero Natural Automatic Dishwasher Tablets

Carpet Freshener
Eco Me – Citrus Sage (SLS-free)

Floor Cleaner
Eco Me – Fragrance Free (SLS-free)

MI-free Cosmetics Brands (UK)
For MI-Free Cosmetics brands, see MI Free’s Cosmetics page.

For hair dyes, colours, shampoos and conditioners, see MI Free’s Hair Care page.

Other useful resources:
Informational Website: Methylisothiazolinone Free
Skins Matter: An Update on MI

Information correct at time of writing. Please always double check labelling before use. Last updated 5th November 2016.

11 Comments

  1. Christine Salisbury

    Thank you for raising this on your site . After years of suffering I have now been diagnosed as having this allergy . It is life changing as there is no avoidance possible !

    Reply
  2. Alex G

    Really pleased you've a diagnosis – but avoidance is possible! I'll be adding links to this page soon – but some of those above can help. Good luck 🙂

    Reply
  3. Christine Salisbury

    For me the only way to avoid it is staying at home in my safe zone , if I go out and mix with the general public , I react , I was so thrilled to find out my allergen after all these years , but I am now over sensitive to it , I am not sure when it will settle down for me , just hugging someone who has used washing powder with it in can make me react , utensils used when out will too , I miss my active life , no gym no swimming either as my throat don't like it . I do have an immunology app at last ! But don't now hold out much hope .

    Reply
  4. Alex G

    Sorry, Christine – only just noticed this comment as I was updating the page. That does sound grim. MI does turn up in so many household laundry products. Hope the appointment gave you some further answers and guidance?

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    I am allergic to Methylsothialinone and Methylchrosotialinone and I am in need of a carpet shampoo without these two allergens. Does anyone know a product? I have been looking in all dry cleaning shops but they all have both allergens in the shampoo they hire with the carpet cleaner.

    Reply
  6. Alex G

    Carpet cleaners are particularly tough to find. There's one listed on the MI Free site – by Home Scents. Find it here: http://mi-free.com/household/other-household/

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone

  8. Paula

    I am finding it really hard to find any products currently that are safe for me…its all trial and error. I have an allergy to methylisothiazolinone and perfume/parfum just when i think i find a product without MI in it has parfum. As above going out and about causes reaction what with the various smells and chemicals in use even walking down the laundry aisle shopping breathing in the airborne scents causes a reaction. Any advice/reviews on what people have tried and tested would be great!!

    Reply
    1. Alex G (Post author)

      Hi Paula,
      Sorry to hear you’ve had so many issues.
      Have you checked out my other website – http://www.mi-free.com – for recommended products? All are MI-free – but of course some will have parfum in them.
      Some laundry detergents here are fragrance-free – http://mi-free.com/household/laundry/ – but also check out Ecover Zero.
      Cosmetics: Green People have a fragrance-free range.
      I wrote a piece on fragrance-free conditioner here: http://mi-free.com/fragrance-free-conditioner/
      Also JASON fragrance-free products, mentioned towards the foot here: http://mi-free.com/are-products-for-sensitive-skin-safe/
      It’s unlikely you’re sensitive to all fragrances, so a patch test may be useful in pinpointing exactly which ones.
      Good luck!
      Alex.

      Reply
      1. Paula

        Thankyou for the information i will look into that..I have had patch testing that is what diagnosed my MI and parfum allergies…as you know there are many different scents out there, i have tried many products currently MI free but with parfum and have yet to come across one that doesnt irritate me, i have also tried some essential oils that are 100% pure and again have struggled with these currently there is only lavender i have found to not cause a reaction and tea tree so i tend to stick with these for now, laudry washing i use indian soap nuts they are ok but not good on stains its mainly body products and shampoo that i struggle to find..im just testing faith in natures fragrance free range thankyou so much though i will look into all the links you provided regards paula

        Reply
        1. Alex G (Post author)

          Parfum is sometimes natural essential oils and is sometimes synthetic fragrance (and is sometimes a mix) but allergies to natural products are just as likely as allergy to synthetic products, so 100% pure is unlikely to make any difference. (In fact, synthetic fragrance – made without the troublesome chemicals that trigger reactions in essential oils – can be better, when it comes to allergy.)

          If you don’t react to lavender it’s quite a good sign, as lavender contains quite a few fragrance allergen compounds – geraniol, limonene and linalool – which you should therefore be OK with.

          Yes, I’d forgotten about Faith in Nature – an accessible and affordable brand. Also look at Mir Skincare – a niche brand, but entirely fragrance-free, which looks very sincere – http://mirskincare.com

          All the best, Alex.

          Reply

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