Test: Chemicals in moisturizing face creams

4. okt 2016

Test of moisturizing face creams shows that 25 products get the best score, the A label. You may choose to be aware of the content of perfume and creams containing substances that are potential endocrine disruptors.


Test: Moisturizing face cream
Photo: The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Moisturizing face cream: many good choices

In this test of face creams the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has checked the ingredients lists.

The ingredients lists of a total of 53 creams have, among other things, been examined for substances that may cause allergy or are potential endocrine disruptors.

The test shows that many popular face creams are good choices. They get the A mark, because they are free from a number of harmful chemicals.

See the test results of each product here (In Danish).

Make your own test: use the app ’Kemiluppen’

In the app ’Kemiluppen’ you find more than 480 face creams. Check the app if your face cream is not among the tested products.

In ’Kemiluppen’ one in five moisturizing face creams receive the A label, because they are free from perfume and harmful substances.

Read about how we conduct our tests in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

Behind the test

How we tested 

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has examined the ingredients of 53 selected moisturizing face creams.

We mainly selected face creams that are scanned a lot in the ’Kemiluppen’ app supplemented with face creams that are included in the Danish Consumer Council’s test of how well face creams moisturize the skin.

This is a labelling test. This means that we have checked the ingredients lists for chemicals with harmful properties, such as substances that have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal tests, environmentally harmful substances and perfume which can be allergenic. The products have not been analysed for the quantities of ingredients.

The meaning of the flasks:

  • A label – The good choice that is free from a number of hazardous substances.
  • B label – Products that are free from a number of hazardous substances, but contain perfume, plant extracts that can be allergenic and/or environmentally harmful substances.  

If you want to minimise the risk of fragrance allergy, you may choose to avoid the perfumed products.

  • C label – Products that we cannot recommend. They contain substances that, for instance, are suspected of being endocrine disrupting or allergenic.


What we found 

The 53 tested creams were evaluated as follows:

A: 25 creams

B: 20 creams

C: 8 creams, all containing potential endocrine disruptors.

The harmful substances that we found on the ingredients lists are all legal. Generally it is not risky to use the products. As the substances however have undesirable properties – for instance are suspected to affect the endocrine system or could cause allergy – we recommend that you reduce your exposure to these substances across all the products you use every day.

Potential endocrine disrupters in moisturizing face cream:

  • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (Ole Henriksen)
  • Benzophenone-3 (Ole Henriksen)
  • Methylparaben (Cien, Kiehl´s, Elisabeth Arden, Derma V10)
  • Ethylparaben (Cien, Derma V10)
  • Propylparaben (Kiehl´s, Derma V10)
  • Butylparaben(Derma V10)
  • BHT (Avene, Ole Henriksen)
  • Cyclopentasiloxane (Cien, La Mer)
  • Cyclomethicone (cyclopentasiloane) (Avene)

Allergenic preservatives:

There may still be creams from Elizabeth Arden containing the allergenic preservative methylisothiazolinone (MI) on the shelves. However the manufacturer states that the substance has been removed from the latest version of Eliabeth Arden Visible difference.

The ban on MI enters into force at the end of 2016.

1. Use the ’Kemiluppen’ app

In the ‘Kemiluppen’ app we recommend that you choose producted given the A label.

You may also choose products with a B label. They typically contain perfume, and we recommend that you limit the total amount in your personal care.

The products marked C in ‘Kemiluppen’ we cannot recommend due to harmful ingredients. The specific product is not harmful in itself, but it contributes to our overall exposure to harmful chemicals from other personal care products, consumer products, food, indoor climate etc.

Use our free app ’Kemiluppen’ to check your personal care products for undesirable chemicals (in Danish).

2. Use the Nordic Swan Ecolabel

Personal care products labelled with the Nordic Swan are generally a good choice free from potential endocrine disruptors and a number of allergens.

If you choose products with The Blue Label, special attention has been paid to allergenic substances in the product. For instance these creams do not contain perfume.

3. Choose ‘fragrance-free’ or ’no perfume’

Do you want an unscented cream? Then you should choose products that state explicitly that they are ‘fragrance-free’ or ‘no perfume’. Fragrances are not allowed in these products.

4. Consider whether you need sunscreen in your moisturizing face cream

Face creams may contain sunscreens to protect against UV rays.

UV filters in face creams can be a supplement to the actual sun protection with sunscreen at the times of the year when this is needed.

In Denmark the exposure to the sun is limited during the winter months. If you also spend much time indoors, sunscreen in creams is rarely necessary.

Besides sunscreens can be harmful. Some sunscreens have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal tests, and new studies indicate that some may affect the sperm function. This is new knowledge, and we do not yet know what it means in practice. However it suggests that it is sensible only to use sunscreens when required.

New Elizabeth Arden cream is free from allergenic preservatives

Elizabeth Arden Visible difference without the allergenic preservative MI (methylisothiazolinone) is now on the market. There may still be creams with MI in the shops though.

When the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals tested face creams in November 2015, the Elizabeth Arden cream contained MI.

In 2015 the company stated that they were replacing MI in their products, but the MI-free creams were not yet on the market. Now they are.

A ban on MI in personal care products that stay on the skin enters into force at the end of 2016. The new Elizabeth Arden Visible difference still contains methylparaben, a potential endocrine disruptor. The cream is therefore given a C label.