HomeA-Z of terms and ingredientsNitrosamines


Nitrosamines are a group of substances (made from nitrogen and oxygen, and sometimes carbon) most of which are potentially harmful and may cause cancer. Nitrosamines are widespread in the environment, but at very low levels.

They can form in the digestive tract from normal food, but the greatest exposure is likely to be in tobacco smoking. Nitrosamines may also form in certain circumstances, for example when some foods are cooked, or especially burnt.

Nitrosamines are banned from being present in cosmetic products, whether as ingredients or formed later in the product itself. There is strict cosmetics legislation in the UK that forbids the potential for nitrosamines to form in a cosmetic product.

As well as the legal requirement ensuring safe cosmetic products, industry has directions on how to avoid nitrosamines in cosmetic products throughout their anticipated shelf life. Guidelines cover choice and screening of raw materials, the use of manufacturing methods that avoid the conditions in which nitrosamines may be formed in cosmetic products and selection of ingredient combinations that minimise the potential for nitrosamines to be formed or actively inhibit their formation.

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