Resorcinol. Whether you call it resorcin, m-dihydroxybenzene, 3-hydroxyphenol, or the catchy moniker Benzene-1,3-diol, you won’t catch us using it in our products. Here’s why…
What is Resorcinol?
Resorcinol is a chemical that is often used in cosmetic products including permanent hair color, skin peels, and acne treatments. In hair dye, resorcinol reacts with a developer (often peroxide) to bond the dye permanently to the hair. It is typically used with a combination of other chemicals to get a specific dye color. Its use in most permanent hair colors is due to its efficacy in coloring hair, and because it is an inexpensive ingredient.
Although resorcinol is used in the cosmetic industry, the chemical is also used significantly by the rubber industry in tire production. Resorcinol is used for wood bonding, commercial dyes, and in chemical manufacturing. Given the range of uses—from cosmetic products that touch one’s skin to the manufacturing of chemicals—it’s clear that resorcinol is a multi-functional and versatile chemical. This disparity, however, also points to some potential conflicts. Do we really want a chemical largely used in making tires to touch our scalps?
Is Resorcinol Harmful?
Put simply, resorcinol can be harmful to people who use cosmetic products containing the ingredient. Unlike the uncertain links to health issues in other chemical ingredients, there is not a lot of gray area when it comes to resorcinol—it is considered a toxic ingredient. Resorcinol has been formally classified as an irritant by the European Union, and it has been prohibited or significantly restricted in cosmetic products in several countries including Canada and Japan. Resorcinol is a skin irritant, and is frequently the ingredient that users are allergic to in hair dye.
Beyond skin and eye irritation, resorcinol is also a potential endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruption causes hormone imbalances and can cause fertility complications. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, studies in animals show that resorcinol disrupts thyroid function, and exposure can be damaging to the immune system. Because of these serious hazards, the federal government has implemented strict workplace regulations to resorcinol, but these regulations currently do not exist for resorcinol in personal care products in the United States.
Alternatives to Resorcinol
Given the severity of reactions people can have from exposure to resorcinol, it’s clear that it should be avoided whenever possible. At Madison Reed, we swap out resorcinol for an ingredient called 2-methylresorcinol, a chemical with a different molecular structure than resorcinol that offers a more gentle process on hair. As always, we recommend completing a patch test to determine how one’s skin will react to our products, and for clients who’ve experienced skin sensitivity with a traditional hair color in the past, we recommend testing our permanent color before use, just in case.
The Bottom Line on Resorcinol
Resorcinol continues to be used in many hair color products because it’s an inexpensive ingredient and is successful in permanently coloring hair. Yet the cost save and effectiveness of resorcinol simply do not outweigh the potential harm, especially with the existence of much safer alternative ingredients that do just as good of a job in permanent color processing. By replacing resorcinol across our product line, Madison Reed ensures that you can skip studying our labels while using products that will help you look and feel your best.
Be sure to visit Madison Reed to check out our full product offering, all of which is completely resorcinol free.