Sincerely Carolina

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phenoxyethanol: another dirty word in cosmetics

by sincerelycaroline

You can’t help yourself.

First it started happening at the drugstore, now you’re doing it at parties: picking up beauty products like you have a PhD in chemical engineering to bust a loved one for paraben abuse. Well, if you weren’t already annoying, we got another one for yah, Ms. SAT, and it’s multisyllabic: phenoxyethanol.

Say it with me: phe-nox-ye-than-ol

Read more before you start overhauling your medicine cabinet for the eighth time.

Define It

Phenoxyethanol is the preservative that seems to have taken the place of your frenemy paraben. Technically, phenoxyethanol is an aromatic ether alcohol. This ingredient starts out as phenol, a toxic white crystalline powder that’s created from benzene (a known carcinogen) and then is treated with ethylene oxide (also a known carcinogen) and an alkalai. Sounds dreamy.

Phenoxyethanol Nicknames

  • Dowanol
  • Arosol
  • Emery 6705
  • Phenoxetol
  • Rose ether
  • Phenoxyethyl alcohol
  • Glycol monophenyl ether
  • Beta-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether

Where It’s Used

Phenoxyethanol is used in many all-natural beauty products touted as being “derived from grapefruits” and has started replacing mercury/thimerosal in almost all vaccines. It’s naturally occurring in green tea, but in cosmetics, it comes from a lab.

Why We Need It

As soon as water is used in a product such as foundation or a mascara, a preservative is needed to kill bacteria. Enter phenoxyethanol, a usual hidden fragrance ingredient and preservative. On the plus side, it’s (usually) non-irritating and formaldehyde-free. Experts and chemists alike claim it’s necessary to have these ingredients in our cosmetics to kill bacteria or else nothing could stay on the shelf. Others say it’s another bad ingredient that you should run from. Why?

Banned in Japan

Hmmm, do they know something we don’t? Japan has restricted phenoxyethanol as an ingredient in all cosmetics. Most countries ban its use to only a 1-percent concentration.

Bodily Harm

Several studies have shown that the toxicity of phenoxyethanol can cause damaging effects to the brain and nervous system, even at moderate concentrations. Again, while it’s thought to be from natural sources, some folks in the beauty biz buy the cheap, synthetic shit from China. All the danger signs refer to concentrated phenoxyethanol when swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Lower the Better

Conventional chemists insist that phenoxyethanol is safe at lower doses (which is what most of our products have) and it’s typically .5 to 1 percent in our products. But hey, what’s a little .5 here, .5 there, .5 everywhere? It’s up to you.

Fore more info about phenoxyethanol, check out the Environmental Working Group’s rap sheet here, and then make up your own pretty little mind.


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