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Chemical of the week: Phenoxyethanol

Written by Mercedes on Monday, 21 March 2011. Posted in Opas Blog, Good to know

Harmful Symbol

Phenoxyethanol is a newer glycol used in the skincare industry. Glycols are made up of various chemicals and used in cosmetics as a anti-bacterial agent. You may see Phenoxyethanol in inks, dyes, insect repellents, and shampoo. In perfume, phenoxyethanol is used as a fixative.

A study was conducted in 1988 using phenoxyethanol combined with lemon grass oil and found antibacterial activity against bacterias of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

Is Phenoxyethanol harmful?

Studies in the 1980's find phenoxyethanol can cause DNA mutation in animals. The Internal Journal of Toxicology released a Safety Assessment Report on Phenoxyethanol in April 1990 with the following information:

"In a subchronic oral toxicity study in rats of Phenoxyethanol, signs of toxicity included reduced body weights and an impaired ability to utilize feed. Increased liver, kidney, and thyroid weights were noted at necropsy in surviving rats."

"Undiluted Phenoxyethanol was a strong eye irritant, but was nonirritating when tested at 2.2%. Phenoxyethanol at 2.0% was a slight irritant to rabbit skin, but was neither an irritant nor sensitizer to guinea pig skin."

"In dermal treatment studies, Phenoxyethanol was neither teratogenic, embryotoxic, or fetotoxic at doses which were maternally toxic. Phenoxyethanol was nonmutagenic in the Ames test, with and without metabolic activition, and in the mouse micronucleus test."
In Japan, phenoxyethanol is classified as restricted in cosmetics with a concentration limit. Europe has classified phenoxyethanol as a irritant and it is limited to low doses. Material Safety Data Sheet also classifies phenoxyethanol (undiluted) as harmful if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed though the skin.

Should I avoid Phenoxyethanol?

I would avoid using Phenoxyethanol because its chemical makeup is a suspected carcinogen. With more than 3000 chemical allergens, Phenoxyethanol was on the list as the top 10 most likely chemicals to create an allergic reactions in humans. I have found some cosmetic products that claim "hypoallergenic" even when Phenoxyethanol is listed as the ingredient.

Phenoxyethanol is a series of synthetic chemicals that breaks down into;

  • Phenol
    A carbolic acid that is water soluble, requires careful handling as it is toxic and will cause severe burns. Phenol is used in vaccines as a Phagocyte inhibitor that reduces the immune systems ability to respond. When a vaccine is taken, it's purpose is to stimulate the immune system so it may respond to disease. How could Phenol help us if it's proven to reduce our immune systems response?
    Other names for Phenol: carbolic acid, benzene, phenolic acid, hydroxybenzene, phonic acid
     
  • Acetaldehyde (ethanal)
    A colorless volatile flammable liquid used to make acetic acid and a by product of alcohol metabolism. Breathing acetaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system. Acetaldehyde can adversely affect the cardiovascular system. Skin and eye contact with acetaldehyde can cause irritation. Acetaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen.
    Other names for Acetaldehyde: ethanolacetic aldehyde, acetic aldehyde, acetylaldehye, ethyl aldehyde

Products containing Phenoxyethanol

  • Alba Botanic (hypoallergenic) Sun Mineral Suncreen Kids SPF 30
  • Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger Moisturizing Lather Shampoo
  • Burt's Bees Natural Skin Care for Men Body Wash
  • Jack Black Body Rehab Scrub & Muscle Soak
  • Nature's Gate Purifying Liquid Soap

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