It is rated a “4” on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.
First of all, it is important to note that a broad spectrum preservative is necessary in our mascara formulation because it is an emulsion (blend of oils and waters). For this reason, an antioxidant (such as vitamin E or rosemary extract) is not sufficient.
What is Phenoxyethanol?
It’s an oily, colourless liquid that belongs to the glycol ether family.
Interestingly, the chemical compound found in nature in green tea, chicory root and roses. Some brands refer to phenoxyethanol as “Rose Ether” to make it sound more naturally appealing. However, the phenoxyethanol used in cosmetics is formulated in a lab, and is said to be “nature identical” to the chemical compound found in plant sources.
Why do we use Phenoxyethanol?
Among its list of benefits: it is paraben-free, and does not release formaldehyde. It’s a broad spectrum preservative that extends the shelf life of products by protecting it from all forms of bacteria, mould and yeast. When used according to the manufacturer’s recommendation (less than 1%), it does not cause irritation to eyes or skin.
Our mascara has been specifically formulated for Pure by a professional cosmetic chemist who specializes in mascara. The formula is amazingly effective. Products formulated to be used near the eyes need to be delicately balanced in many ways. Keeping bacteria at bay is vitally important. Each batch is tested to be sure it’s free from contaminants and bacteria.
Another substantial benefit of Phenoxyethanol in our mascara, is that it is an effective preservative over a wide pH range. Our mascara is specifically balanced to the pH of eyes (which is different than skin). It's what helps make it hypoallergenic. Other preservatives we would like to consider using, are not effective considering the pH of this formula.
Why the concern?
The studies done on this ingredient suggest mixed reviews. The main concern is skin and eye irritation. However, tests that proved the ingredient was harsh on skin and eyes were conducted with the ingredient at full strength. The International Journal of Toxicology testing found that at 2%, there was no irritation to eyes or skin.
Phenoxyethanol is NOT carcinogenic. The concern is toxicity at high levels.
Interestingly, (at the time of writing) we have NEVER had a complaint that Pure mascara has caused eye irritation!
Are we working to formulate it out of our Mascara?
At the point of writing this article, no. It was the preservative recommended by the chemist we contracted to formulate Pure mascara. We have never had a preservative failure in any batch we have released. It functions effectively in the pH of our formula. It's a well-loved, successful product and considering the fact that the low percentage of phenoxyethanol has caused no known irritation, we will continue to use it as the preservation system in our mascara.