The Verdict on Phenoxyethanol: Is It Safe?

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What is Phenoxyethanol and Why Is It Used? 

Phenoxyethanol’s function is as a preservative or antibacterial agent in your beauty products. According to Healthline’s official website,“chemically, phenoxyethanol is known as a glycol ether, or in other words, a solvent.” It can also be a stabilizer for various perfumes and soaps. Phenoxyethanol is actually naturally occurring in substances like green tea and chicory. However, the version used in beauty products is a synthetic mimic of it instead.

 

Last but not least, an important reality is that with Phenoxyethanol comes a lot of controversy over whether or not it’s safe. There is still not a clear answer as to whether it is actually a preservative that “green” and organically-motivated companies should use. That is precisely why we are taking a deeper look at the preservative. 

 

Ways Phenoxyethanol is Labeled:  

  • phenoxyethanol
  • ethylene glycol monophenyl ether
  •  2-Phenoxyethanol
  • PhE
  • dowanol
  • arosol
  • phenoxetol
  • rose ether
  • phenoxyethyl alcohol
  • beta-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether
  • euxyl K® 400, a mixture of Phenoxyethanol and 1,2-dibromo-2,4-dicyanobutane

 

Concerns 

According to EWG’s official website, Phenoxyethanol is classified as an irritant. However, according to a report titled “9 Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Phenoxyethanol,” it is safe in concentrations less than 1%. The good news is, Phenoxyethanol is not used at higher concentrations in current beauty products. 

 

Healthline’s official website lists breastfeeding infants as one of the main concerns when it comes to the use of Phenoxyethanol. Reports indicate that it has interacted poorly with infants’ nervous systems or has resulted in bad skin reactions-- not a good look! We would recommend keeping it far from infants. 

 

Another concern is that if you use multiple products with less than 1% in concentration, it could result in overexposure. And, given that information, we should also be aware of its ability to trigger the immune system response, causing an allergic reaction. It can increase redness, itchiness and even cause blisters. Those with sensitive skin and specifically, eczema should avoid Phenoxyethanol altogether. In the more serious cases, according to Safecosmetics.org’s official website, the allergic reactions can be life-risking. 

 

The Verdict 

While Clean Beauty by Joy doesn’t use Phenoxyethanol in its products, we acknowledge it is much safer than its alternative: parabens. This is because it does not disrupt the endocrine system like parabens do. That’s a major perk, as the hormonal disruption is what links parabens to cancer risks. 

 

However, Joy avoids using Phenoxyethanol in her products because of the allergy risks and its tendency to be an irritant for skin. In addition, according to Aromatic Studies’ official website, “... preservatives are only needed when water is being used within the cosmetic formulation. Water is necessary for microbial growth to occur.” Knowing this, we question why beauty brands use Phenoxyethanol in products that do not contain water. 

 

Clean Beauty by Joy’s rule of thumb is to take out as many unnecessary risky ingredients as possible. Instead, Joy uses beneficial, safe preservatives such as Rosemary and Thyme leaf extract. You can learn more about the preservatives Joy uses in her products here. 

 

To join us in taking out the excess risk in beauty products, take stock of which beauty products you have in your makeup bag and consider swapping them out for safer products. If you don’t know where to start in terms of makeup, check out Clean Beauty by Joy’s makeup right here! 

 

Sources: 

https://www.healthline.com/health/phenoxyethanol 

https://cleanbeautybyjoy.com/blogs/news/safe-clean-alternatives-to-harmful-preservatives-in-makeup (parabens article) 

https://www.honest.com/blog/wellness/ingredients/what-is-phenoxyethanol/4553.html 

https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/704811-phenoxyethanol/ 

https://aromaticstudies.com/need-use-preservative-aromatherapy-product/ 

https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/phenoxyethanol-beauty-products/ 

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.3109/10915819009078737 

https://fleurandbee.com/blogs/news/phenoxyethanol-in-skincare 

https://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/phenoxyethanol/ 

 

Image source: 

https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/31236 


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