Phenoxyethanol - Why I Avoid It


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I’ve heard a lot of chatter recently about Phenoxyethanol and I get asked a lot why I avoid it, so thought I’d write a post on how I feel about it.

If you look at the ingredient list on any of your (non certified organic) personal care products and cosmetics I’m fairly certain you’ll see Phenoxyethonol listed, even in your seemingly green products. It’s used as a preservative and it’s cheap, I found it for a 10th of the price of a natural preservative. It also makes the shelf life about four times longer than the natural alternatives, although if you’re anything like me your awesome toxin free products don’t last too long so this doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of uncertainty about how harmful it is or whether it is in fact considered natural, it can be derived from natural ingredients however it’s the manufacturing process that creates toxins.

Personally I don’t use it and here’s why:

  • In 2008 the FDA warned that a nipple cream containing phenoxyethonol was harmful to nursing infants, the FDA stated in a media release that phenoxyethanol “can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration in infants”
  • Chemical maze states “Suspected reproductive & developmental toxicity; effects from exposure may include headache, eye irritation, tremors & CNS depression; mild irritation on sensitive skin; absorbed via the skin; toxic to the kidneys, the nervous system and the liver; safe as used up to 5% (CIR)”
  • The Environmental Working Group list it as a moderate hazard
  • In Japan and the EU the concentration of Phenoxyethanol in cosmetics is restricted to 1%
  • Phenoxyethanol is not approved by the organic certification boards so it won’t be found in certified organic products

You may choose to continue using products that contain less than a 1% concentration of phenoxyethanol, however if you’re using multiple products containing this ingredient then your exposure will be greater, so perhaps consider limiting it to a certain product, maybe that one product you REALLY don’t want to give up. I haven’t found it hard to avoid it altogether, NONE of the products in my store contain phenoxyethanol so I’m not limited with my options. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Amy x

Disclaimer:  Any recommendations are based on personal, not professional, opinion only.



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