As I transition into a cleaner beauty and skincare routine, I am paying more attention to what is in my personal care products. I recently did a post and video on the top ingredients to avoid in your personal care products. But I want to expand on that further. So this is a new series I want to share on my blog. In each post I will go into more detail on certain toxic and irritating ingredients commonly found in our products.
So today we are starting with Phenoxyethanol. What is it? What is it used for? Is it safe? What are some alternatives?
What is Phenoxyethanol?
Right now there is a lot of hype around Parabens. You see many brands are claiming to be clean because they are Paraben Free. A few years ago, a study was done and released that showed Parabens were a toxic ingredient and even linked to some forms of cancers such as breast cancer. Particularly, Parabens that were in deodorants and being so close to breast tissue, it made sense that we would see that connection.
Parabens are usually used as a preservative and now companies that are marketing themselves as “Paraben Free”, “Natural” and “Clean” are using Phenoxyethanol in its place. So Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative and stabilizer in our products. This can also show up as Glycol Ether or Rose Ether. Phenoxyethanol is a waxy substance that gives off a rose scent (hence Rose Ether) and it can be often listed under the ingredient listing as “Fragrance”.
The ingredient listing of “Fragrance” or “Perfume” is a whole other topic for a future video and blog post. The FDA does not regulate our beauty products for safety as I have mentioned before. They also do not regulate “Fragrance” because that falls under protection of Trademark. Basically companies don’t want to provide their secret, proprietary blends so they are able to just list “fragrance” in the ingredient listing. So they can hide anything under that label as well, including many toxic and irritating ingredients.
What is Phenoxyethanl Used For?
As I mentioned, this is often used as a preservative mostly. We find this in many products like foundations, moisturizers, sunscreens, blushes, eye shadows, lotions, fragrances, shampoo and conditioners. It can be in pretty much anything.
Is Phenoxyethanol Safe?
So is Phenoxyethanol safe? Well that really depends on who you ask. As most companies are marketing themselves as “clean” and “paraben free” they are still using Phenoxyethanol. The FDA and European Trade Commission allows this ingredient to be used but only in 1% or less. This is why you will often see this listed in an ingredient listing on a product as the very last ingredient.
However, as this is an ingredient that is fairly new in the beauty formulation world, there is not a lot of information on it. Studies are now being done on how it effects our skin and bodies. I have found some very recent research that shows that it can be very irritating, causing skin sensitivity, as well as it can be very problematic for skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis. A few cases have been recorded where it has also caused rashes and hives. If you are someone with a more sensitive skin type, you may want to avoid Pheonoxyethanol in your products. Through my own trial and error, I have actually found that when I use a product with this ingredient, my eczema flares up. I have managed to really sooth my skin and eczema flare ups by removing any products with Phenoxyethanol from my skincare routine.
In addition to irritation and sensitivity, there have been also some recent studies that show it can be damaging to the liver, kidneys and the nervous system.
So do we want to avoid it? I am one who always tends to go on the side of better safe than sorry. I prefer to take the precautionary approach to ingredient safety. I think that this is an ingredient that needs more research. In my own experience, I have found that my skin does better when I avoid products containing this ingredient. I have found a lot of so called “natural” and “clean” products or brands still use this. So it is very important to read your product labels. Know what an ingredient is, what it does and how it can affect your skin. Also, know what works well for your skin or is irritating for your skin and try to avoid those ingredients.In a time where are our personal care products are not regulated we have to be educated consumers and know what to look for and avoid in our products. I hope this new series will inform and educate