Phenoxyethanol is a well-known and widely used preservative in conventional cosmetics. Yet its toxicity is proven even though authorized by European regulation.
These one requires that its concentration within cosmetics remains limited to 1% of the formula. Under these conditions, it can be used in all categories of products including skincare for babies. However, it doesn’t take into account if consumers or their children use at the same time several products containing it, thus surpassing the notorious 1%.
1 – IT IS A GLYCOL ETHER
Phenoxyethanol belongs to the glycol ethers family, directly derived from vacuum distillation. About 80 are known. Many of them are highly toxic to humans, with effects that result in sterility, anomalies in the duration or regularity of menstrual cycles, difficulties in conceiving children, spontaneous abortions, damage to the embryo, congenital anomalies…
2 – IT HAS A PROVEN TOXIC POTENTIAL
In 2008, the NIRS (National Institute for Research and Security) published a toxicological study about phenoxyethanol. It indicates that this substance is easily absorbed by the skin and metabolized to phenoxyacetic acid, which can lead to neurotoxic effects and neurological disorders. Moreover, it is a harmful potential, all the more important because glycol ether is easily absorbed by the skin in its liquid form (which is often the case with cosmetics).
In 2012, the ANSM (French Agency for the Safety of Health Products) has conducted a safety assessment of phenoxyethanol. Its conclusion: an acceptable safety margin for adults, but inadequate for children under the age of 3. The French Agency then asked Europe (whose texts make the cosmetic law throughout Europe, including France), new restrictions for the use of this substance. Application that will not be enforced.
3 – IT BENEFITS FROM A SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
The cosmetic field mainly uses four glycol ethers called E-series, which have the feature of causing the formation of toxic compounds in the organism. In 2000, the Consumer Safety Commission (a European body) already recommended a complete substitution of E-series glycol ethers for equivalent and non-hazardous substances.
In 2009, Europe severely limited the use of several E-series glycol ethers in cosmetics, but it didn’t affect phenoxyethanol … while it was also itself considered by experts.
4 – IT REMAINS AUTHORIZED
The ANSM’s file is forwarded to the European experts who conclude, in March 2016 … that everything’s fine!!!
In their words,”phenoxyethanol is safe at the maximum concentration currently in effect, and for all consumers, regardless of their age”. Which means: even for babies, despite the alert of the French Agency. As a result: its regulatory status will not change and phenoxyethanol will remain allowed in cosmetics up to 1% of the formula.
5 – IT ALSO HAS AN ALLERGENIC POTENTIAL
Other recognized scientific data: phenoxyethanol has an allergenic potential. Cases of skin sensitization (the first stage of the onset of the disease), resulting in eczema and urticarial, are known. They are almost always linked to regular use of cosmetics containing phenoxyethanol.
6 – IT IS EASILY SUBSTITUTABLE
If glycol ethers are still present in cosmetics, it’s because they are very easy to formulate, odorless (they don’t interfere with the product’s scent), and have a very low manufacturing cost. Most are used as solvents, for example in hair colorings. Phenoxyethanol is used for its preservative properties. However, manufacturers have at their disposal other solvents, and other preservatives.
No, manufacturers ARE NOT OBLIGED to use them! By the way, organic cosmetics are doing very well…
7 – NO PHENOXYETHANOL PRESENT IN ORGANIC LABELS
But it represents an ethical and health choice that affects the difficulty of formulating and the cost of production. However, it is also the only protection against its undesirable effects: the use of Phenoxyethanol is prohibited in cosmetics taking out to the criteria of ecological and organic cosmetic charters (Ecocert, Cosmébio, Nature & Progrès, Cosmoc, NaTrue, BDIH…).