We were interested to learn recently from DHI Environment and Toxicology that ANSM — the French national agency for medicines and health products safety — would like to tighten up the use of the preservative phenoxyethanol in cosmetics. Currently allowed in a concentration of up to 1%, the ANSM has recommended to the EU Commission that this should be reduced to 0.4% for products aimed at children under three, and that ‘intimate’ products for babies, such as nappy balms and baby wipes, should be free from phenoxyethanol entirely.
Phenoxyethanol has become popular in many natural and ‘free from’ cosmetics, since concerned were raised about parabens in the last decade, and cosmetic manufacturers began to swap the latter for the former in their formulations. But the ingredient divides opinion, as some are concerns about its toxic capabilities (in the blood and liver), and the research about it is inconclusive — as Sarah Brown from Pai Skincare discussed on her blog here, where she links to a fuller discussion on the No More Dirty Looks site. The Soil Association currently (I think until the end of 2014) permit its use in organic products with certain provisos, and it can be derived from petrochemical sources, although it can also be derived from plant ingredients too. There’s another interesting article on it at the Australian Shop Naturally site.
For the first two years of the FreeFrom Skincare Awards we have allowed naturally derived phenoxyethanol — and indeed, some of our winning products have contained it — but we are planning to review this for the 2014 awards, as we do know that many people avoid it and there is some concern about it. We’ll certainly blog about this subject in greater detail later in the year.
What attracted our attention from the news, however, was the thought that some products which are safe for adults may be less ideal for children — even in the ‘natural’ or ‘free from’ cosmetics world. How many of us with children always buy separate natural cosmetics for them, which aren’t necessarily aimed at them or else described as ‘family friendly’? How many parents can honestly say they’ve never used some ‘adult’ cream on their child?
It’s perhaps a small reminder that children’s skins are more delicate and may need different kind of care and attention than adult skins, in ways we may not think about. Inevitably, products aimed at children are likely to be ‘gentler’ — although this is by means not always the case…
In this, the second year of the awards, we introduced a ‘mums, babies and kids’ category, which had some very interesting entries — although do remember there is of course no guarantee that phenoxyethanol is not used in the brands entered, or where it is, that it is used at or below the 0.4% that ANSM is calling for. As always, always read the label — and don’t be afraid to call up or email the brands if you’d like more information.
We do plan on covering child-specific skincare issues more in the future, but meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on phenoxyethanol, for use in products for adults or kids, we’d very much like your thoughts.