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Is Phenoxyethanol Safe For Your Dog?

May 25, 2016

Is Phenoxyethanol Safe For Your Dog?

This week we got a phone call from a groomer who was researching dog shampoo to find an "all natural, safe, and non-toxic" dog shampoo for their shop.

They were frustrated that the words "all natural" didn't seem to have meaning and felt it made reading labels very confusing. We hear you! 

Since 4-Legger doesn't (currently) carry an ear wash, we were asked if we would mind looking at ingredients in an ear wash they were considering to carry in their shop. Of course we were interested! We LOVE looking at ingredients!

Here were the ingredients we were sent with the unsafe ingredients in red.

Ingredients: Organic Aloe Leaf Juice, Vegetable Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol (Organic Disinfectant), Black Willowbark Extract, Sorbitol (emulsifier), Tea Tree Essential Oil, Tetrasodium Edta (Preservative), Citric Acid

Most would look at that list and think "That looks great! It even has organic ingredients." 

Here is how this part of the phone call transpired: 

  • 4-Legger: Phenoxyethanol is not organic. It is an organic compound.
  • Caller: (silence)
  • 4-Legger: It is an organic compound, meaning it contains carbon; but, it is not a certified organic ingredient.
  • Caller: (silence)
  • 4-Legger: Are you there?
  • Caller: Yes

You can see how well this was going. 

The use of phenoxyethanol in products can be just as confusing as this phone conversation. Phenoxyethanol does have antibacterial properties and therefore could be considered a disinfectant. it is typically used as a preservative in so-called "natural" products. 

Phenoxyethanol popularity has surged to replace paraben, methylparaben, and formaldehyde preservatives that have correctly fallen out of favor with ethical manufacturers.

Phenoxyethanol is linked to skin allergies and skin irritation and organ system toxicities. 

The product's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) says that phenoxyethanol is harmful for organ system toxicities if absorbed through the skin at high concentration.

Since phenoxyethanol is the third ingredient listed in the above formulation, there is likely a larger volume of it than you would normally see when it is being used as a preservative. As a preservative, phenoxyethanol would typically be 0.5 - 1%.  

Phenoxyethanol is also considered a fairly new ingredient (30 or so years) 

Finally, while phenoxyethanol is an organic compound, it is not approved by the USDA's National Organics Program for use in certified organic products. So, saying it is "organic" is well, misleading.  It is also a fairly new compound. I know... 30 or so years can seem like a long time, but in terms of putting it in cosmetics and dog shampoo, it is fairly young. The fact that it is not on the list of approved ingredients for true organic products means you'll never see it in a 4-Legger product! 

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