What is Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate?

Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate (rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?!) is a chemical preservative commonly found in “natural” cosmetics which helps prevent bacterial or fungal growth.

A lot of customers have been turning to Pai as a result of severe reactions to this ingredient in other products, so I thought I’d put together a bit more information on the subject.

Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate is a skin irritant in high doses, and should therefore only be found in products at a concentration of 0.1% or less.

Reactions usually entail a stinging or burning sensation, and reddening of the skin.

While there is a lot more controversy surrounding Parabens at the moment, far more people are sensitive to Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, and yet I have noticed several manufacturers replace their Paraben preservatives with this in an attempt to avoid any associated bad press.

I have also noticed Sodium Hydroxmethylglycinate described as “organic” or naturally derived from glycine, an amino acid.

This is definitely something that I’d contest, as the ingredient goes through a rigorous manufacturing process involving a multitude of chemicals. Indeed, one of the particular problems highlighted is that Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate is sometimes contaminated with yet another controversial ingredient, Formaldehyde, which is used during manufacture.

While many people come to organic skin care after reacting to chemicals in their usual products, finding a range laced with Sodium Hydroxymethylglycimate will certainly not solve the problem.

As all of Pai’s products are formulated with sensitive skin in mind, we only use truly natural preservatives and aviod irritating or potentially harmful ingredients such as Parabens and, you guessed it, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate.

Sodium Hydroxymethlyglycinate is also listed as:


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  • Katie

    Does the soil assocation let companies use sodium hydroxymethylglycinate?

  • Sarah

    Hi Katie,

    I have checked the list of Soil Association approved chemicals, and Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate isn’t allowed.

    The Soil Association does allow organic beauty companies to use artificial preservatives “from a restricted list of synthetic chemicals that have been assessed against criteria to demonstrate they have no detrimental impact on human health and minimum environmental impact.”

    The most commonly used SA preservative in organic products is Phenoxyethanol.

    However, Pai uses only natural preservatives as snythetic chemicals are often allergens or can irritate sensitive skin.

  • Kathleen

    If this is something that I should avoid, what kind of preservative will be OK for my skin?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rpthomas Robin Thomas

    There is only one company that I know of which has a patent on self-preserving skin care without any of these synthetic chemicals or irritating essential oils. How are the Pai Skincare preserved?

  • Jan

    hi Robin, What company make skin care products that work that are without preservatives? Have u ever heard of or seen the results of NeriumAD?

  • Jan

    hi Robin, What company make skin care products that work that are without preservatives? Have u ever heard of or seen the results of NeriumAD?

  • Ed

    Hi Robin,
    Self-preserving formulations, for everyone else’s benefit, are formulas that contain dual use ingredients that have a preservative effect, but also have e.g. a moisturising or cleansing effect.

    I had a quick look at the patent, and for instance, one of the inventions is a method of combining Camellia Oil with Pentylene Glycol (1:9 parts) to gain a preservative effect. Since Pentylene Glycol is already known as having a mild preservative effect I’d question how useful combining it with Camellia Oil is – but if you’ve spent a lot of money researching and patenting this, I’d hope it is quite useful!

    Many companies claiming self-preservation or dual use preservatives are using ingredients added solely for their preservative effect, but claim that there is a fragrance benefit. That means the actual preservative system can be hidden by listing it as “parfum” on the ingredients label.

    Pai doesn’t do “parfum” because we’re all about sensitive skin (and transparency), so the ingredients are all on the label. I’m sure your chemists could work out the basic principles behind the system we’ve developed for each product, as it sounds like it is similar in philosophy to your own.

  • Anonymous

    You say Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate is a skin irritant Is this ingredient possibly a cousin to an ingredient called Sodium Hydroxide……..LYE?!

  • http://robinthomas.biz RobinThomas

    I wouldn’t panic over that particular relationship… it would be very distantly related to sodium hydroxide.. and if any of you have used homemade soaps- you are commonly using lye for that.

  • ellie

    so you are saying homemade soaps are made with lye? my soap says castille and beeswax and essential oil.

  • Lindsay

    Handmade Soaps (when made properly) don’t contain any lye in the final product. The Lye Solution is blended in careful proportion with oils. When combined, they go through an exothermic chemical reaction, and the final product (soap) is actually a salt.

    When made correctly, there is no sodium hydroxide left over in the final product.

    But all REAL soap is a combination of oils with an alkaline substance of some kind, sodium hydroxide being the most common choice.

    (handmade soaper for over a decade)

  • zoe banks

    What about toothpastes such as Aloedent? They have this in but I do not know the strength. Can you help with that? Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Zoe,

    I’m afraid I don’t know the amount of Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate that they use in their formula. You could always try contacting the company directly and asking them?

    Sorry I can’t be more help! x

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