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Soapbox :: Ingredient Spotlight - Phenoxyethanol + Why It Shouldn't Be In A Natural Or Organic Beauty Product

Ah Phenoxyethanol (aka ethylene glycol monophenyl ether), the preservative that seems to have taken the place of the paraben.  You may or may not know this is one of the ingredients we avoid and you won't find it in any of the products reviewed here, though many, many "organic" and "natural" beauty brands use it while claiming their products are "safe" and "completely non-toxic".  Companies attempt to defend their use of it and some easily dismiss it when I've questioned why they chose to use it and why they belief it is safe.  I can tell you from personal experience that 99.99% of the time there are only two responses I receive when I ask why a company chose to use Phenoxyethanol in their so-called safe, non-toxic, natural, pure, organic product(s):

1). "We only use a small amount of it, so its not a concern."  


2). They proceed to explain how harmful it is to not use any preservative at all.

Here's the problem with this logic:

1). Parabens are also only used in a small amount (usually the same amount as Phenoxyethanol - usually 1% or less) yet the same companies who splash "NO PARABENS!" on their products or marketing material (claiming its harmful effects) are oftentimes the same companies who use the synthetic preservative, Phenoexyethanol instead.  That logic cancels itself out because if that's the reason why its okay to use, why not go back to using parabens or any other suspect ingredients?

2). I also do not believe products should be without a sound preservative system, in fact its very important when dealing with fresh, herbal and/or plant-based products to ward off harmful bacteria.  I'm not at all suggesting skin care products shouldn't have any preservative system.  Choosing not to use products that contain Phenoxyethanol or parabens doesn't mean you have to go without preservatives altogether.  There are safe and effect preservatives out there - in fact, there are companies who are successfully creating amazing natural and/or organic skin care products without this ingredient.  If you'd like to know "who" and "what" - just peruse this site, because you won't find Phenoxyethanol in any of the products we've reviewed here.  We know it is possible to preserve a product without the use of toxic and/or potentially toxic preservatives. And since we don't have to because there are many great products to chose from sans this ingredient - why should I/we risk it???

Furthermore, I have issues about its safety because I'm concerned about its cumulative effect in the body over time - not necessarily what will happen if I use a product containing this ingredient for a short amount of time.  We, as women, don't just use one product one time - we slather/rub/spray many products on our skin during a good portion of our life.  Just last year, even the FDA had to release a warning about a nipple cream containing Phenoxyethanol called Mommy's Bliss advising consumers to avoid the product due to its inclusion of this ingredient. According to the FDA:

“Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that is primarily used in cosmetics and medications. It also can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea”.

And if I want to get very technical and/or picky - I would dispute any claim that a product is "all-natural", "totally natural" or "100% natural" if this ingredient is in the product because Phenoxyethanol is, without question, a synthetic chemical - most definitely not found in nature. 

Want to know more?

The most well-written explanation to date about what Phenoxyethanol is and why it is a concern comes from Stephanie Greenwood, Owner/Founder of Bubble & Bee Organic.  I just read her article in its entirety and I applaud her for her research and for digging deep to find out all about this ingredient.  I love a girl (or guy) who does their research and a company who knows what's in their products and why they do and don't use certain ingredients.

Go check out this article and let me know what you think!  Its definitely a must-read:

Industry Chemists Challenge Bubble & Bee Organic "Chemical Of The Day" And Controversy Ensues

Other good articles to read:

Beyond Parabens: 7 Common Cosmetic Ingredients You Need To Avoid (Treehugger)

What Is It: Phenoxyethanol and Is It Safe? (Truth In Aging)

Phenoxyethanol: Preservative With A Dirty Past (Green Beauty Bible)

READERS: We want to know what you think! Do you want to see more "Ingredient Spotlight" features in future posts?  Leave us a comment and let us know - we'd love to hear from you! 

Fun fact: So, what exactly is a Soapbox you ask???  Find out here.

Image credit: Chemical Heritage Foundation (flickr)

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