Consumer demand has prompted Johnson & Johnson to change the formula used to make its “No More Tears” baby shampoo. The biggest change is that formaldehyde will no longer be a part of the product although, interestingly, the company never puts formaldehyde in it.

A second chemical - 1,4-dioxane - will be absent in the new formulation, too, but the company doesn’t put that ingredient in the product, either. That’s why neither chemical is listed in the ingredients list on each bottle.

Both chemicals are linked to cancer in animals and, in the case of “No More Tears,” both chemicals are biproducts that develop during the manufacturing process. They’re created by chemical reactions that occur when actual shampoo ingredients are combined.

The company describes an increasingly informed public making demands that require companies to become more responsive to consumer concern. As a result, company executives say consumer behavior has made a fundamental shift away from less-active involvement just a decade ago. Johnson & Johnson feels it’s worth it to the company’s long-term success to address consumer concerns and rework products in ways that make the general public more comfortable using them.

A great deal of effort has gone into the reformulation as the company’s research and development department has worked like alchemists to find the perfect ingredients to enhance safety without noticeably changing the product. As many as 2,500 raw ingredients have been tested, 12 to 18 different versions of each product tested, and the opinions of 75,000 consumers solicited.

Some ingredient substitutions have altered the shampoo’s color, consistency, and texture. The final goal was to find the right ingredients, including the preservatives that created the undesirable chemical reactions, in the right combination to produce a shampoo that looked, felt, smelled, and performed as consumers were used to.

The reformulation effort wasn’t isolated to baby shampoo alone. Other products are under the reformulation process and Johnson & Johnson has set a 2015 goal to have all unpopular chemicals removed from its entire inventory of products. Look for an “Improved Formula” sticker on baby shampoo already on store shelves today.

Other companies manufacturing or selling personal products and cleaning products that contain questionable chemicals are following Johnson & Johnson’s lead. Procter & Gamble, Walmart, and Target have implemented measures to eliminate chemicals such as phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and quaternium-15, the preservative that releases formaldehyde.

Janet Nudelman praises Johnson & Johnson for its new baby shampoo. “A lot of companies say they’re going to do something but, in this case, Johnson & Johnson actually did” it. Nudelman is co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which lobbied the company for safer products, and director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund.

Source: Thomas, Katie. “The ‘No More Tears’ Shampoo, Now WIth No Formaldehyde.” The New York Times. Jan 17, 2014. Web. Jan 25, 2014.