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Why my bathroom is entirely phenoxyethanol free

Why my bathroom is entirely phenoxyethanol free
Have you ever woken up to itchy eyes? It’s a strange, unsettling feeling and one that greeted me on a sunny morning last week. When I looked in the mirror I was horrified to find my upper eye lids breaking out in scaly dermatitis. The delicate skin around my eyes had decided it was time to protest against a serum I had used, and the results were red, purple and angry. If you have every experienced dermatitis you will know the feeling I am describing. The worst part is that it takes days or even weeks to heal properly, with a lot of itching, scaling and peeling in between, and can cause hyperpigmentation.

I have been using only natural and organic cosmetics for many months

But after a day of particularly dry skin, and with my usual natural serum finished, I decided to pull out a hydrating serum that is not 100% natural from my bathroom cupboard. The serum contains 4 ingredients: water, sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and phenoxyethanol (preservative). I figured that the percentage of phenoxyethanol in the solution was probably very minimal, so I decided to ignore that and use it anyway. How wrong I was… The result was not hydrated skin, but red, itchy skin. This is a brand that I know and trust, something I used on my skin for many years. I never use it close to my eyes – I know to avoid that. And yes, I checked and it’s still within its use by period so my reaction wasn’t caused by an out of date cosmetic. My only analysis is that after months of not using this, when I went back to it my skin was no longer used to coping with the synthetically derived ingredients in the formulation. Now I do accept that this could have been caused by food or other irritants, however I also know that I didn’t eat or do anything out of my ordinary routine last week, so I sincerely doubt that.

The Culprit

I’ve blogged about the potential effects of phenoxyethanol before. It’s a glycol ether that’s quite common in cosmetics these days as an alternative preservative to parabens. There are plenty of articles and blogs out there describing its ill effects, however let's focus on the research as gathered by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). According to EWG[i] the use of phenoxyethanol is restricted in cosmetics in Japan, and the EU classifies it as toxic or harmful and a potential irritant. In a 2006 study it was shown to be in the top 10 most frequent allergens[ii]. There are actually quite a few studies on phenoxyethanol (usually carried out in cell lines and not on human subjects), if you want to read up on it check out PubMed[iii]. If you need any help going through the research let me know…So after reading all the research I could find, I have decided to make my bathroom entirely phenoxyethanol free. But more on that in my next blog…
Right now I am concentrating on healing. While I've ensured that I am only using the purest, most natural skin care for sensitive skin (LUXE Botanics being one of them), the biggest mistake I made on this journey was using a very light over the counter steroid cream (DermAid 0.5%) on day 3 which just inflamed my skin even more and I believe to have been the cause of my skin almost "burning" (see the photos below and the peeling that ensued). This steroid cream should have actually been fine as its extremely mild, but I guess in my case my skin was just too sensitive already for anything topical to be applied. When the DermAid made it worse I finally went to my doctor, and with a course of oral steroids my skin seems to be slowly recovering.
Here’s what I’ve looked like over the past 5 days:
I've experienced redness, itching and flaking extending down from my upper eyelid onto my lower lids, that then went on to form a thick, smooth layer of skin all around my eyes that felt just like a heat burn. And then, it peeled... I would love to hear from you if you’ve had a similar reaction to phenoxyethanol or other synthetic ingredients - how did you cope? What did you do to heal yourself? How long did it take to get back to normal again…?
As always, read your labels, do your research and be aware of what ingredients affect your skin...
Jené, Founder of LUXE Botanics
[i][i] [ii] [iii]

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How Kigelia solved my contact dermatitis caused by phenoxyethanol

How Kigelia solved my contact dermatitis caused by phenoxyethanol



To add to my previous comment about things I’ve done to treat/heal. I have a Chinese medicine doctor and she describes the symptoms as heat rising-we use herbs to pull the heat down/out. Also, making sure to stay hydrated to eliminate the chemical as fast as possible and that also includes enemas if need be to keep the colon moving and clean. Using vitamin E oil and coconut oil around my eyes to keep the tissue hydrated and help it heal. Oral vitamin E, magnesium, glutamine for the gut and probiotics. I can give you more details if you’d like. My first episode about 8 years ago lasted about 8 months I had no idea what was going on and had no idea how to treat it. I was episode free for about 7 years and my second episode was a year ago and lasted about 3 to 4 months-at the time still did not know what set it off. I’m having my third episode now and have realized what the trigger is (phenoxyethenol). And also ingredients in nail polish. Strangely, during my seven years of being episode free I know that I used products that had phenoxyethanol and also used nail polish and I didn’t react. I believe there is an aspect to it that involves the state of the immune system at the time of contact with the chemical (s).


Same! Has happened multiple times over the past 10 years and I could never figure it out. Recently I used some banana boat sunscreen on my face and the next day instantly I started to feel symptoms. I’ve also discovered I’m fairly certain I’m allergic to chemicals in nail polish as well that causes the same reaction. Thank you so much for posting this site!!

stephanie usalj

Ugh this is all the same as what I have been going through. Has anyone experienced the reaction travelling to other areas such as ears, chest, back of neck? I don’t necessarily put this product on my eyelids so I am wondering, if it can come out in other places?


I had exactly the same allergic reaction to all Clinique products and I discovered the all contain phenoxyethanol. Now I am healing using la roche posay toleriane eye cream

Maryam Jabbar

This is literally the same reaction I had on my eyes after using maybelline concealer that i have used for a few years….suddenly I was reacting. Its also in the clinique take the day off balm which made my skin feel amazing but again my eyelids were inflamed. This happened in January and I am still healing from it. Because it caused inflammation I had many secondary reactions that followed and had to go into accident and emergency. I want be absolutely sure that this ingredient is the main cause but I’m too afraid to try these products again.

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