Formic acid functions as a fragrance ingredient, preservative, and pH adjuster in cosmetic products, whereas sodium formate functions as a preservative. Because of its acidic properties, formic acid is a dermal and ocular irritant. However, when used as a pH adjuster in cosmetic formulations, formic acid will be neutralized to yield formate salts, for example, sodium formate, thus minimizing safety concerns. Formic acid and sodium formate have been used at concentrations up to 0.2% and 0.34%, respectively, with hair care products accounting for the highest use concentrations of both ingredients. The low use concentrations of these ingredients in leave-on products and uses in rinse-off products minimize concerns relating to skin/ocular irritation or respiratory irritation potential. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel concluded that formic acid and sodium formate are safe in the present practices of use and concentration in cosmetics, when formulated to be nonirritating.
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