Ask Dr. Sandy – Phenoxyethanol: An Explainer

THE DIFFUSER EPIDEMIC
July 18, 2019
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Ask Dr. Sandy – Phenoxyethanol: An Explainer

Question:

@DrSkotnicki can you elaborate on the safety of Phenoxyethanol in beauty products? In #BeyondSoap, you list the agent as a “less problematic preservative” when it comes to skin reactivity, but many sources claim it to be a potential hormone disruptor. What’s the deal? – @SaraDarvy

Answer:

Phenoxyethanol is used to preserve cosmetic products as well as to stabilize soaps and perfumes[1]Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (1990). Final report on the safety assessment of Phenoxyethanol. Journal of the American College of Toxicology, 9(2), 259-277. Allergy to Phenoxyethanol is low and it has been associated with anaphylaxis in only several cases in the literature. [2]Bohn, S., & Bircher, A. J. (2001). Phenoxyethanol‐induced urticaria. Allergy, 56(9), 922-923.[3]Chasset, F., Soria, A., Moguelet, P., Mathian, A., Auger, Y., Francès, C., & Barete, S. (2015). Contact dermatitis due to ultrasound gel: A case report and published work review. The Journal of dermatology. There have been reported exposures in infants that adversely affected the nervous system function.[4]U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA warns consumers against using  Mommy’s Bliss Nipple Cream. Available Online: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2008/ucm116900.htm. Accessed September 16, 2015.

Phenoxyethanol is a rare cause of allergic reactions in skincare.  It is also not particularly irritating. With ongoing worries about parabens, and methyisothiazolinone and formaldehyde preservatives being used less, we are running out of options for preservatives. This is why at this time I think phenoxyehtanol is a better option.

The European Economic Community (ECC) Cosmetic Derivative and Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union approved phenoxyethanol in concentrations up to one percent. [5]Bohn, S., & Bircher, A. J. (2001). Phenoxyethanol‐induced urticaria. Allergy, 56(9), 922-923.[6]Phenoxyethanol Available Online: http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/phenoxyethanol. Accessed September 14, 2015. These committees are much better at regulating what goes into skincare than what we have available in North America. 

If you are not allergic, phenoxyethanol is a relatively safe preservative in regard to chronic health effects.[7]http://www.safecosmetics.org/about-us/ It is not associated with hormone disruption.

To learn more about other  ingredients widely used in skincare, visit https://whatsinmyjar.com/ingredient/

References   [ + ]

1.Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (1990). Final report on the safety assessment of Phenoxyethanol. Journal of the American College of Toxicology, 9(2), 259-277.
2.Bohn, S., & Bircher, A. J. (2001). Phenoxyethanol‐induced urticaria. Allergy, 56(9), 922-923.
3.Chasset, F., Soria, A., Moguelet, P., Mathian, A., Auger, Y., Francès, C., & Barete, S. (2015). Contact dermatitis due to ultrasound gel: A case report and published work review. The Journal of dermatology.
4.U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA warns consumers against using  Mommy’s Bliss Nipple Cream. Available Online: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2008/ucm116900.htm. Accessed September 16, 2015.
5.Bohn, S., & Bircher, A. J. (2001). Phenoxyethanol‐induced urticaria. Allergy, 56(9), 922-923.
6.Phenoxyethanol Available Online: http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/phenoxyethanol. Accessed September 14, 2015.
7.http://www.safecosmetics.org/about-us/

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