Much Like The Spelling, It’s Complicated!

During pregnancy, there are a lot of things we are told not to do. Whenever I have a friend that is expecting for the first time, I always give them the same advice, “If it bothers you, don’t do it. The peace of mind is reason enough”. Questioning your decision, after you’ve done something you were weary of, and the worry that inevitably follows, can be the worst part in making that choice to begin with.

For personal reasons (mostly pregnancy and breastfeeding-related), phenoxyethanol is an ingredient that I have chosen to try and avoid in my skincare routine. If for none of the evidence below, than for my own peace of mind.

What Is Phenoxyethanol?

According to the “Think Dirty” app, “Phenoxyethanol is a common, synthetic, antimicrobial preservative used in cosmetics. There are no reports of this compound being found in natural extracts”.

Phenoxyethanol is a very controversial ingredient that I was unaware of when I started detoxifying my beauty routine. It is controversial because there are many advocates for the use of phenoxyethanol and many advocates against it. According to a video by Tata Harper, a lot of companies market their products as “paraben-free” in an attempt to make us assume they are safe, but as she explains here, these same companies use other questionable preservatives instead, like phenoxyethanol. After watching this video for the first time, I remember being very disappointed when I checked my “clean” beauty products only to see this ingredient listed in a majority of them.

Watch the Video: Exposing The Natural Beauty Industry: Tata Harper on Greenwashing

In moderation and in low concentrations, I’m sure phenoxyethanol is not extremely harmful (that’s a big assumption), but when you use as many products as myself, or are unaware of the concentration of phenoxyethanol in a particular product, it can be reason for concern. While the FDA recommends cosmetic companies use concentrations of 1% or less, at this time, the United States does not regulate phenoxyethanol.

Side Note: Currently, Japan and the EU limit the use of phenoxyethanol in cosmetics to 1%.

My decision to avoid phenoxyethanol was greatly justified when I read an article by, in which they chose to eliminate any products that included phenoxyethanol from their shelves. cited a study from in which they discuss phenoxyethanol being associated with “increased time to pregnancy” in women.

Read the Follain Article: We Officially Banned Phenoxyethanol from our Shelves

Read the Study: Urinary Glycol Ether Metabolites in Women and Time to Pregnancy: The PELAGIE Cohort

The great news is that there are a plethora of amazing, natural skincare brands who do not use synthetic preservatives, and at the same time are exponentially effective. Also, a lot of mainstream brands are beginning to re-formulate their products without phenoxyethanol. Hooray!

Just to clarify, I am not condemning phenoxyethanol and I believe preservatives are extremely important when it comes to the safety of our skincare products. If you have no reason to avoid this ingredient, or aren’t convicted either way, then you shouldn’t be overly worried. This blog post is meant to inform, not create fear.

Skincare is a very personal choice. Much like a diet, what works for one person may not work for another. There is no judgement if this is an ingredient that you decide not to avoid, and there may be other ingredients that I commit to discontinue using in the future. To be transparent, I use regular nail polish and currently have no strong conviction to change. Clean skincare is an ever-evolving journey of self-discovery and improvement.

Final thoughts: As with most things, I believe moderation and education are key. It’s impossible to avoid every hazard in life and I know there are many risks we are still unaware of. Until we have conclusive information from all sides, all we can do is make informed decisions, be confident in the personal choices we make, and ultimately have peace of mind.

Remember, you are appreciated and worthy of self-care and love.



Please comment below! Are there any other ingredients you’ve made the personal decision to avoid? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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