Phenoxyethanol is found in many natural skin care products but not many understand the dangers of phenoxyethanol. It is increasingly turning up in cosmetic products, many of which are labelled natural or organic. Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative that extends the shelf life of cosmetic products. It is the popular alternative to parabens.
The side effects of phenoxyethanol have come to public attention in the US when the FDA issued a warning about its use in a cream, called Mommy Bliss, for nursing mothers.
The FDA warned that phenoxyethanol can cause shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and contact dermatitis.
So what is phenoxyethanol and is it is really safer than parabens?
Phenoxyethanol is a glycol ether. Glycols are a series of chemicals that find their way into all sorts of things: paint, lacquer, jet fuel….. Phenoxyethanol is used to keep bacteria and yeast our of cosmetics. It is also used as a stabilizer in perfume.
Green tea contains a natural phenoxyethanol, however most of the phenoxyethanol used in skincare is synthetic in nature.
The product’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) says that it phenoxyethanol is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin and that it can cause reproductive damage.
The MSDS refers to 100% concentrations. But is it safe at lower doses or should we try to avoid it?
The Dangers of Phenoxyethanol
There are many cosmetic ingredients reviews where phenoxyethanol has been shown to cause allergic reactions. Phenoxyethanol can therefore only be in skincare in concentrations below 1%. But read this is not enough to reduce the dangers of phenoxyethanol. Its best to be avoided.
There are several animal studies that demonstrate that it is toxic – with effects on the brain and the nervous system – at moderate concentrations.
In Japan, there is a concentration limit for its use in cosmetics.
We didn’t want to take a chance with it in any of our products based on the evidence. In fact, we even created a detoxifying face mask to help get ingredients like phenoxyethanol to get out of the system.
In Europe, the European Union classifies it as an irritant and there are various studies (on rabbit skin, for example) that demonstrate reactions at low doses.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) data sheets and show chromosomal changes and genetic mutation effects in testing as well as testicular atrophy and interference with reproductivity in mice.
The Danish EPA suspected phenoxyethanol of being damaging to the environment and health. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists it as an irritant and toxic in varying concentrations.
Phenoxyethanol & Allergies
I also came across a report written by a medical professional who contracted allergies after coming into contact with phenoxyethanol in a detergent used for cleaning lab equipment.
There are over 3,000 known allergans that are used in cosmetic products. A research team in Germany studied all of these along with the data from 9,948 patients. They found products containing phenoxyethanol was in the top 10 of allergic reactions. An Italian study also found that phenoxyethanol is a notable contact allergan.
An American study shows that phenoxyethanol caused mild allergy on rabbit skin at a 2% concentration. Now in skin care phenoxyethanol can only be used in 0.5-1% concentration. But when you layer skin care products, the amount of phenoxyethanol can increase to above the 2% concentration resulting in allergic reaction.
Do you want phenoxyethanol in your skin care products?
We don’t! Especially not in your face cream which gets deep into your skin. It why all Organic Apoteke products including our organic face cream is phenoxyethanl free.
The other important question – is phenoxyethanol safer than parabens?
Not much. Therefore all Organic Apoteke products are free of Phenoxyethanol and Parabens.