Phenoxyethanol is used in cosmetics and personal care products as a preservation system, solvent and stabilizer against product spoilage and ingredient breakdown. According to EWG.org, this product has a sliding toxicity score of 2-4 that directly relates to the ingredient’s concentration in a formulation.
Although this ingredient naturally occurs in green tea and chicory root, phenoxyethanol has been synthesized for large scale commercial purposes. It is viscous in consistency with an aroma similar to roses. Studies have emerged addressing topical irritation at high levels of use and it’s now classified as a toxic ingredient. Japan has strict restrictions on this synthetic ingredient as it can have adverse effects on the reproductive and nervous systems.
Keep in mind that when it comes to formulating a product it is not as easy as substituting a less toxic ingredient in for one that is more toxic as changes to a formulation affects the overall stability, pH and performance of that product. In most formulations, phenoxyethanol is typically used at 2% or less and it does not appear to be bioaccumulative in the body which is a good thing for many who deal with metabolic disorders. Phenoxyethanol has not yet proven to affect the environment either, with many researchers deeming it biodegradable.
In place of phenoxyethanol we preserve our products with probiotic-based preservation systems such as lactobacillus coconut extract and leuconostoc (radish root) ferment filtrate. We love these organic alternatives because they are rated 100% non-toxic in all categories, allergies & immunotoxicity, cancer and developmental & reproductive toxicity.
Our suggestion if you’re looking to avoid phenoxyethanol in your life, is to check all ingredient panels and/or manufacturer’s inserts before use. The following are different ways this ingredient can be listed:
- Euxyl K 400