This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Ingredient: EDTA

Fast Facts       

Type of Ingredient: EDTA, also known as edetic acid, is a preservative developed to neutralize the effects of hard water and heavy metals ions in the production of beauty products. These metal chelators are heavily used in cosmetics and personal care products, in food, and medicines.

Main Benefits:  It prevents the growth of mold and deterioration of other ingredients in beauty products.

Who Should Use It: it is included in many creams, lotions, and soaps, so anyone can safely use it on their skin.

Ideal For These Concerns: improving the skin absorption and preventing contamination in beauty products used regularly. 

How Often Can You Use It: it can be used twice a day 

Works well with: When coupled with irons it allows better foaming of the products and prevents any contact of heavy metals with the skin

What is EDTA? 

EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a molecule that holds metals and minerals in aqueous (water) environments, known as “chelating agent”.  This mainly prevents the deterioration of cosmetic and personal care products, as it prevents the growth of mold and other microorganisms.  It is available in four neutralizations, two of which, Disodium EDTA and Tetrasodium EDTA, are commonly used in the cosmetics. 

Tetrasodium EDTA is recommended for high pH (alkaline) products such as soap, creams, lotions and surfactant systems. Tetrasodium EDTA also helps sustain clarity, protect fragrance compounds, and even prevent rancidity.  Disodium ETDA as it is much more soluble in water and used in clear or transparent products, it may be preferred over. Either form works synergistically with other preservatives to improve preservative efficacy.  Accodring to Dr.R.S Lanigan of the cosmetic review board, “Disodium EDTA protects the integrity of skincare products from undergoing unwanted consistency changes, pH changes, odor changes, or texture changes. In addition, when binding with calcium, iron, or magnesium, disodium EDTA results in enhanced foaming and cleaning abilities”       


The Benefits of EDTA



The main goal behind the use of Tetrasodium EDTA in a skincare formula is to prevent the growth of fungus and the development of rancidity. This ingredient is made from component chemicals; formaldehyde, sodium cyanide, and ethylenediamine.

Tetrasodium EDTA works by neutralizing metal ions, which usually cause skin products to go bad quickly. However, these same benefits are believed to be a direct cause of some healthcare problems with long term use and high dosage, since despite keeping skincare formulas safe, counterbalancing the naturally-occurring ions in the body can disrupt the normal bodily function.

Penetration enhancer

Besides being used as a preservative, Tetrasodium EDTA is also valued in some skincare applications because of its capacity to weaken the natural skin barrier allowing deeper penetration of other ingredients. This feature can be especially useful in increasing the effectiveness of certain products, by allowing the active ingredients to penetrate the skin, it helps produce a more significant effect.



Tetrasodium EDTA Skincare Power Duo 


When tetrasodium EDTA forms complexes with calcium, magnesium, and iron, it allows for better foaming and cleaning ability of the cosmetics and personal care products. By attaching to metal ions, these ingredients can prevent harmful metals from being deposited onto the hair, scalp, and skin.




The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and determined that disodium ETDA and all other related ingredients were safe as used in cosmetic ingredients and personal care products. The board also stated the ingredient was not well absorbed in the skin. However, since they also stated that the ingredient is a penetration enhancer, formulators must be careful when combining these preservatives with other ingredients that may be toxic if absorbed.


The Cosmetic Safety Database rates the hazard of the ingredient at a low “2,” with a low overall health hazard, and EDTA has not been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

But, this ingredient may also contain dangerous levels of dioxane, a by-product of manufacturing that is also carcinogenic. There have been many case reports of individuals developing eczema after using a cream with tetrasodium EDTA, and it’s known to be a potent eye irritant and can also be slow to degrade.



Cosmetic Ingredient Review. "Cosmetic Ingredient Findings: 1976 to present." July 18, 2009. (Accessed 9/2/2009)