Cosmetics manufacturers have been asked to stop using a particular preservative after a report linking it to a serious increase in skin allergies and dermatitis.
The substance - Methylisothiazolinone, known as MI or MIT - is found in moisturisers, sun creams, facial cleansing wipes and shampoos from brands including L'Oreal, Olay, Nivea and Clarins. It first came into use in 2006, and has been widely used ever since.
But, says European cosmetics trade association Cosmetics Europe, new tests have revealed a strong link to skin complaints including eczema and allergies such as contact dermatitis, which can cause skin to become itchy and inflamed, and even blister. One woman who'd been using L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Laser Renewal products says she took six months to recover from the painful blisters caused by the products.
"Cosmetics Europe took these concerns seriously and, with the support of experts from ingredient suppliers and cosmetic product manufacturers conducted a thorough review of the clinical, toxicological and cosmetovigilance data for MIT," says the organisation in a statement.
MIT has been coming under increasing scrutiny for some time. This summer, a report from the British Association of Dermatologists concluded that as many as one in fifty people were allergic to MIT. Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended tighter limits on its use.
But while the Cosmetics Europe recommendation has been welcomed by dermatologists, some fear it does not go far enough.
"This is a promising step forward, and I welcome this demonstration of responsibility by Cosmetics Europe to pre-empt regulation on the use of MI. I hope that this recommendation will be adhered to by the association's members and will go some way towards protecting UK and European consumers," says Dr David Orton, president of the British Society of Cutaneous Allergy.
"Nevertheless, as it currently stands, this recommendation falls short of calling for the removal or a reduction of MI levels in rinse-off cosmetics, such as shower gels or shampoos. We still have concerns that its continued use at present concentrations in such products will elicit allergic reactions in those that are already sensitised. This is a matter which we are hoping to reach agreement on in future planned discussions."