What it is:
Phenoxyethanol is a glycol ether that can be derived from natural sources such as green tea. However, most products that currently use phenoxyethanol do not use the natural derivative but one that is synthetically made. It is a preservative and anti-bacterial that is widely used in products like skin creams and sunscreens. You’ll also find phenoxyethanol in perfumes, insect repellant, topical antiseptics, some dyes and inks. Phenoxyethanol was developed as an alternative to standard, potentially harmful formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. It is approved for use in Japan and the EU as long as the concentration doesn’t exceed 1%.
Why you should avoid it:
- The FDA warns that phenoxyethanol is toxic to infants via ingestion.
- Phenoxyethanol is a possible eye and skin irritant.
- It is a possible endocrine disruptor. Endocrine distruptors can lead to: cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.
In terms of preservatives, phenoxyethanol isn’t the worst thing out there. I personally decide to stay away from anything that contains this preservative because I’d rather keep my toxic burden as light as possible. There is some conflicting data about phenoxyethanol so I would advise people to make their own conclusions on using products that contain this preservative. If you already have health issues or are overexposed to toxic ingredients (through work for example, or if you live near a chemical lab, etc) then you may decide to eliminate all ingredients that are harmful to your health. That being said, you won’t immediately get sick or die if you use some products that contain phenoxyethanol. My question would be how many products do you use that contain this ingredient, and how often do you use those products?