What Is It?

BHT (Butylated Hydroxtoluene) is a white to yellowish-white, crystalline solid. It can be found in a wide range of cosmetics and personal care products, particularly in makeup products such as eyeliners, eye shadows, eyebrow pencils, lipsticks, blushes, face powders, and foundations, as well as in perfumes, moisturizers, and personal cleanliness products, skin cleansers, and skin care products.

Why Is It Used?

BHT acts as an antioxidant by preventing or slowing the deterioration of cosmetics and personal care products caused by chemical reactions with oxygen.

Scientific Facts

Due to its antioxidant properties, BHT is widely used in cosmetics and personal care products, as well as in fat-containing foods. It acts as a weak antioxidant in vegetable oils and is often added to meat fats. BHT acts synergistically with, and is more effective, when used in combination with other antioxidants.

Safety Information

BHT is included on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of substances considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in food. It is permitted to be used in food as a preservative limited to concentrations of 0.02%. BHT is also an FDA approved indirect food additive. For example, BHT is permitted to be used in adhesives that come in contact with food.

The safety of BHT has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that BHT was safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products.

CIR Safety Review: The CIR Expert Panel recognized that there is extensive literature examining the safety of antioxidants, including BHT. Although dermal application of BHT results in some skin absorption, BHT appears to remain primarily in the skin or passes through the skin only slowly, and dermal application does not produce systemic exposures to BHT or its metabolites of the magnitude seen in oral studies.

The CIR Expert Panel noted that only limited tests evaluated the effects of BHT on skin but studies in which topical application of BHT was used to moderate the effect of ultraviolet radiation were considered. These studies clearly demonstrated the absence of a photosensitization effect and no sensitization or significant irritation was reported.

Oral exposure to relatively large doses of BHT has resulted in liver and kidney effects. BHT was not a reproductive or developmenta toxicant. It was not genotoxic, nor was it carcinogenic. The CIR Expert Panel was not concerned with the liver and kidney effects reported after oral exposure because of the limited dermal penetration of BHT, and the low concentrations of use (0.01 to 0.1%) of this compound in cosmetics and personal care products.

FDA: Link to the Code of Federal Regulations for BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)………

BHT may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation:…

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has established a temporary Acceptable Daily Intake of 0-0.125 mg/kg body weight for BHT.

More Scientific Information

BHT, also called Butylated Hydroxytoluene, is a substituted toluene that functions as an antioxidant in cosmetics and personal care products. Antioxidants are ingredients used in cosmetics to prevent or retard product spoilage from rancidity (or deterioration from reaction with oxygen). Antioxidants play a vital role in maintaining the quality, integrity, and safety of cosmetic products.


Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration Food Ingredients and Packaging: Food

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Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS):…

National Toxicology Program…

Search the Code of Federal Regulations

EU Cosmetics Inventory