What is BHT in skin care?

A bottle labeled Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) 99.9% with a petri dish of white powder in a laboratory setting.

BHT, or Butylated Hydroxytoluene, is a synthetic antioxidant that is commonly used in cosmetics, skincare products, and even in food and pharmaceuticals. In the context of skincare and cosmetics, BHT is used primarily to extend the shelf life of a product by preventing the oxidation of fats and oils.

Here’s a breakdown of its uses and considerations:

  1. Preservative: BHT is added to skincare products to prevent them from going rancid. It helps maintain the integrity, efficacy, and scent of a product by inhibiting oxidative degradation.
  2. Stabilizer: By preventing oxidation, BHT also works to stabilize the colour, flavour, and active components of skincare products.
  3. Compatibility: BHT is often found in a variety of skincare formulations, including moisturizers, sunscreens, lipsticks, and even anti-ageing serums, because of its stabilizing properties.
  4. Safety and Controversy: While BHT is generally considered safe for use in cosmetics and skincare by regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there have been debates and studies regarding its safety. Some studies have suggested that high doses of BHT may have potential health concerns, leading some consumers to prefer products without synthetic antioxidants.
  5. Alternatives: Some skincare brands offer products formulated with alternative antioxidants, such as Vitamin E (tocopherol), as a more natural preservative choice.
  6. Label Reading: If you’re interested in knowing whether your skincare products contain BHT, it’s a good practice to read the ingredient list. BHT, if present, will usually be listed towards the end of the ingredient list, indicating its presence in a smaller proportion.

As with any ingredient, individuals may have different sensitivities or reactions, so it’s a good practice to patch-test new products and consult a dermatologist if you have specific concerns.


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