Health warning Spain for hazardous substances in cosmetics

by Lorraine Williamson
harmful substances

MADRID – The Spanish consumer organisation OCU has denounced the presence of harmful substances – nickel and formaldehyde in mascaras. Nickel can cause allergies and formaldehyde is a carcinogen. 

In particular, OCU has found nickel and formaldehyde in mascaras. These are hazardous substances because they can cause allergies and formaldehyde is carcinogenic. “In the laboratory, we trace the presence of 30 substances that can be harmful, from heavy metals (lead, cadmium, nickel, etc.) to impurities from petroleum. 

Hazardous substances in excessive amounts

After analysing 14 black mascaras with a volume effect, the organisation found these substances in three of them. In particular, nickel has been found “in excessive amounts” in the product Maxfactor Divine Lashes (8 parts per million) and Deliplus Maxi Volume (6ppm), marketed by Mercadona. 


Nickel is an impurity that usually comes from pigments of mineral origin. It is used in mascaras and can cause hypersensitivity and allergy problems. Despite this, the European Union Cosmetics Regulation allows its presence as traces. This is as long as the substances have not been added intentionally and there are no technical means to remove them. If the manufacturers have no indication that their product causes damage, they too are allowed. 


The same goes for formaldehyde, a substance that can form when different ingredients come together and is considered a carcinogen. The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) explains that the use of formaldehyde in cosmetic products has been banned since June 2019 because it is included in Annex II of Regulation 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council. 

Cogesa Expats

“Formaldehyde, a possible carcinogen that can also cause skin sensitisation problems, is banned in cosmetics. Therefore, it should not be present in these products. However, based on the latest scientific advice, we set an acceptable limit of 10 ppm (parts per million)”, publishes the OCU. Formaldehyde has been found in a “high” amount in the Chanel Le Volume mascara at 12 ppm, according to the OCU. 

Complain to the Aemps 

For all these reasons, the OCU has requested the intervention of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps). OCU wants legislation to be introduced that regulates at least the maximum permitted amounts of these substances. 

“Lax regulation” 

“This is a lax regulation that serves the interests of cosmetics companies over the safety of citizens,” the consumer organisation denounced in the statement issued. The same analysis also found that half of the mascaras analysed are marketed without a seal. This poses a danger to consumers. Moreover, as it is a product that is applied close to the eye and requires maximum hygiene. 

Also read: Health alert for commonly used drug

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