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Natural Skin Care - The Dangers of Phenoxyethanol

Posted by Kyriakos Paschalidis on

Natural Skin Care - The Dangers of Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is the new darling of the skincare industry. It is increasingly turning up in cosmetics, many of which are labelled natural or organic, as a preservative. It is the alternative to parabens.

It has recently came to public attention in the US when the FDA issued a warning about its use in a cream, called Mommy Bliss, for nursing mothers. The FDA warned that phenoxyethanol can cause shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and contact dermatitis.

So what is phenoxyethanol, is it is really safer than parabens or should we try to avoid it?

Phenoxyethanol is a glycol ether. Glycols are a series of chemicals that find their way into all sorts of things: paint, lacquer, jet fuel..... Phenoxyethanol is used as an anti-bacterial in cosmetics as well as a stabilizer in perfume.

The product's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) says that it phenoxyethanol is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin and that it can cause reproductive damage. The MSDS refers to 100% concentrations. But is  it safe at lower doses? In cosmetics the concentrations are typically 0.5% to 1%.

There are several animal studies that demonstrate that it is toxic - with effects on the brain and the nervous system - at moderate concentrations. In Japan, there is a concentration limit for its use in cosmetics. In Europe, the European Union classifies it as an irritant and there are various studies (on rabbit skin, for example) that demonstrate reactions at low doses. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) data sheets and show chromosomal changes and genetic mutation effects in testing as well as testicular atrophy and interference with reproductivity in mice. The Danish EPA suspected phenoxyethanol of being damaging to the environment and health. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists it as an irritant and toxic in varying concentrations

I also came across a report written by a medical professional who contracted allergies after coming into contact with phenoxyethanol in a detergent used for cleaning lab equipment.  It seems he wasn't a fluke. There are over 3,000 known allergans and they were studied, along with the data from 9,948 patients, by a research team in Germany. Phenoxyethanol was in the top 10. An Italian study also determined that phenoxyethanol is a contact allergan. An an American study shows that phenoxyethanol caused mild allergy on rabbit skin at a 2% concentration. Do you want it in your skin care products. Is it that much safer than parabens. 

All Organic Apoteke products are free of Phenoxyethanol and Parabens.


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2 comments


  • Dear Savy, the only study quoted is referenced. Along with a number of agencies that are gathering data on phenoxyethanol. You would not squeeze lime juice on your skin daily- would you? However you may be applying multiple products that contain phenoxyethanol over your entire body daily.

    Vishal Naidoo on

  • Everywhere you cite a study, you should actually link that study if anything written here could have an iota of clout. Additionally EVERYTHING is a potential skin irritant or allergen. In fact, why don’t you squeeze some lime juice onto your skin then step outside and see what happens next.
    I’m sure this won’t be “approved” to be published- that’s why there’s no comments on this blog.

    Savy on

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