What Is It?

t-Butyl Hydroquinone, also called TBHQ, is a white to light tan crystalline solid. In cosmetics and personal care products, TBHQ is used in the formulation of lipsticks, colognes, moisturizers and other makeup products.

Why Is It Used?

TBHQ prevents or slows deterioration of cosmetics and personal care products caused by chemical reactions with oxygen.

Scientific Facts

In addition to its use in cosmetics and personal care products, TBHQ is used in fats, oils, and meat products to prevent oxidative rancidity.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed the safety of TBHQ and approved its use as a direct food additive for use as a food preservative. The safety of t-Butyl Hydroquinone has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that TBHQ may be safely used as a cosmetic ingredient at concentrations not to exceed 0.1%. In 2007, as part of the scheduled re-evaluation of ingredients, the CIR Expert Panel considered available new data on TBHQ and reaffirmed the above conclusion.

CIR Safety Review: Data indicated that TBHQ was slightly toxic in oral feeding studies. The results from subchronic, chronic and developmental toxicity studies of TBHQ and hair dyes containing this ingredient were unremarkable. In clinical studies, TBHQ was not an irritant or sensitizer when tested at 0.14%. TBHQ was a weak skin depigmenter at 1.0 and 5.0% but not at 0.1%.

Although a threshold for depigmentation was not established, the dose-response relationship was adequate to conclude that TBHQ at concentrations of use of 0.1% and less was not a human skin depigmenter. Other data indicated that this ingredient was not a phototoxic agent. The CIR Expert Panel concluded TBHQ was safe as a cosmetic ingredient at concentrations not to exceed 0.1%.

Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for TBHQ

TBHQ 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:

Health Canada permits the use of TBHQ in cosmetics and personal care products at concentrations equal to or less than 0.1%. 

More Scientific Information

TBHQ is an aromatic organic compound. In cosmetics and personal care products, TBHQ functions as an antioxidant.


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

Food Ingredients and Packaging: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/default.htm

Food Contact Substances: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/PackagingFCS/defaul…

Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS): http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/default.htm

Search the Code of Federal Regulations http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm

EU Cosmetics Inventory http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cosmetics/cosing/