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.
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.
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.
Bio-D – Concentrated Laundry Powder (fragrance free)
Ecover – Concentrated Non-Bio Washing Powder
Ecover (UK only) – Washing Powder ZERO (fragrance free, SLS-free)
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)
Ecover – Zero Natural Automatic Dishwasher Tablets
Eco Me – Citrus Sage (SLS-free)
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.
Information correct at time of writing. Please always double check labelling before use. Last updated 5th November 2016.