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Phenoxyethanol  -  Why it's a restricted Ingredient

Phenoxyethanol - Why it's a restricted Ingredient

Within the world of clean skincare, there will always come new and evolving data that help us continue to strive for what is are safest products. We are constantly educating ourselves on the ingredients that are used in our skincare products and how they can affect us now and in the long run. Often times, as the clean standards continue to develop, we are still faced with a risk vs benefit situation. 

Phenoxyethanol is one of those products that many seem to be on the fence about. So we’d like to cleanse some of the chaos and explain why we at NEO have decided, “it’s a no for me dog” (*Randy Jackson voice*)

What is Phenoxyethanol?

Phenoxyethanol is a chemical that can be made both naturally but more commonly synthetically. According to the NIH, it is an ether alcohol that is used as a preservative that can be found in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and lubricants to name a few. Almost all phenoxyethanol that is used in beauty products is synthetically made. Preservatives are used in cosmetics to help ensure the stability and potency of your products and extend their shelf life. It can also be known for killing or preventing the growth of microbes within your products. So, although these ingredients are essential for maintaining your products, they can have negative effects on your skin and body. Phenoxyethanol was introduced and popularized as it became a common substitute for parabens. 

No Parabens, WOOHOO, right?

As phenoxyethanol seemed to be the “safer” option, there has still been data presented that suggests that although it may be “better”, it’s still not what we think is best! According to the NIH, it’s considered an irritant and depending on exposure time and concentration can have various adverse effects. With short term exposure, it can cause eye irritation, headache, tremors, and nervous system depression. Long term exposure can lead to weakening of the skin leading to dry and cracking skin as well as impaired central nervous system functions. This is some scary stuff, which is why I also want to point out that other studies are showing that these adverse reactions occur when the product is not produced or used to proper standards. According to the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety it reports safe limits when used at a maximum concentration level of 1%. And as that may be true, it brings us back to that old saying, “lets weigh out the options”. 

So what does it really come down to?

At NEO, our mission is to be a support system for our community and help to provide products that are in the best interest of you! As the controversy around this ingredient continues, much more research is needed to clear the air on phenoxyethanol. Until then, we have decided to include phenoxyethanol on our restricted ingredients list. Our motto is “when we know better, we’re obligated to do better” and that’s exactly what we plan to do. If we know that there is in fact a potential for this ingredient to negatively impact the health of our consumers, then we don’t want it! We figure, why put yourself at risk when we don’t have to. That being said, if you’re like me and are looking for a safer alternative to phenoxyethanol, you’re in luck! 

Plenty of natural alternatives exist and are featured in the products we carry on our site. For example, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate is a natural substitute that is found in the Under Luna hair conditioners. This natural preservative is derived from radishes that are fermented with Leuconostoc kimchi, a lactic acid bacteria. Throughout the process of fermentation, the bacteria release a peptide with amazing antimicrobial powers! An essential to protect our products against harmful bacteria. The Under Luna conditioners are a must have and a co-founder favorite! These gentle conditioners are perfect for all hair types, safe for color treated hair, handcrafted with only non-toxic and natural ingredients. And to top it all off, Under Luna reiki infuses their products, giving them that extra boost of healing and love that transcends you with every use! 




European union scientific committee on consumer safety- opinion on phenoxyethanol (2016)

National Center for Biotechnology information (2021) pubchem compound lcss for CID 31236, 2-phenoxyethanol (2021)

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