You can't help yourself. First it started happening at the drugstore, and now you're sneaking away to friend's bathrooms. Picking up beauty products like you have a PhD in chemical engineering, all in hopes of busting a loved one for paraben abuse. Well, if you weren't already annoying, we have another bone for you to pick: phenoxyethanol.
Before you start overhauling your medicine cabinet for the eighth time, educate yourself on what phenoxyethanol is and why it deserves your undivided attention.
Define It. Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that is commonly taking the place of the beauty world's antagonist, parabens. Phenoxyethanol is an aromatic ether alcohol. This ingredient starts out as phenol, a toxic white crystalline powder that is created from benzene (a known carcinogen), and is then treated with ethylene oxide (another known carcinogen) and an alkalai. Sounds dreamy, right?
- Emery 6705
- Rose ether
- Phenoxyethyl alcohol
- Glycol monophenyl ether
- Beta-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether
Where It's Used. Phenoxyethanol is used in many all-natural touting beauty products as "derived from grapefruits," and has started replacing mercury/thimerosal in almost all vaccines.
Why We Need It. As soon as water is used in a product such as foundation or a facial cream, a preservative is needed to kill bacteria or prevent mold. Some companies rave about natural preservatives, which are questionable in the industry as to whether they actually "preserve" a product. Natural substances that show antimicrobial activity are either not adequate for broad spectrum protection or are not active against the most threatening microbes. Others, such as essential oils, require very high concentrations to be effective, while some boast nasty odors or colors that would be unacceptable in beauty products.
So, this is where phenoxyethanol steps in - a sometimes hidden ingredient and preservative. On the plus side, it's 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. Japan has restricted phenoxyethanol as an ingredient in all cosmetics. Most countries ban its use to only 1-percent concentration.
Bodily Harm. Several studies have shown toxicity of phenoxyethanol to cause damaging effects on the brain and nervous system, even at moderate concentration. Again, while it is thought to be from natural sources, some folks in the beauty biz buy the cheap, synthetic phenoxyethanol from China. All the danger signs refer to concentrated phenoxyethanol when swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
The Lower the Better. Conventional chemists insist that phenoxyethanol is safe at lower doses. Keep in mind most "all-natural" products that contain phenoxyethanol, contain it in smaller doses. It's typically one-half to 1-percent in our beauty products.
But hey, what's a little here, a little there, and a little everyday? It's up to you.
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