My first stop was mineral makeup. The kind that comes in a loose powder that works magnificently but kicks up a great big cloud of dust when you stir it up with your brush. Clearly there must be something of significance to this. In my research on sunscreens, it is pretty clear that sprays and powders (although I've never seen a sunscreen powder) are bad due to inhalation concerns. Zinc Oxide in the makeup + stirring = dust cloud = breathing it in = bad. See? (Forgive my equation, I'm obviously not a mathematician).
So I kept looking. I've ordered sample after sample. And what I noticed at the very end of the ingredients of a lot of natural makeups and my baby's lotion and butt cream, was a questionable sounding ingredient - phenoxyethanol. So I did some research and discovered that I'm not the only one wondering about this chemical and in fact, pretty recently there has been some research done on it.
Now I'm not a scientist or a chemist or anything like that, but here is what I understand. Phenoxyethanol replaced parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben...) as a preservative in certain natural products. Preservatives are needed in water based material so they do not grown mold and or bacteria. Parabens have been linked to cancer and they rate moderately toxic on Skindeep. Phenoxyethanol also rates moderate in the 3-4 range depending on the usage. It's often the last ingredient on the label and my understanding is that it is because it is the lowest percentage (usualy .5%).
The chemical was once used in a nipple cream and information supplied by the FDA stated the following: "The two potentially harmful ingredients in Mommy's Bliss Nipple Cream are chlorphenesin and phenoxyethanol, which may interact with one another to further increase the risk of slow or shallow breathing (respiratory depression) in nursing infants.
can depress the central nervous system
may cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration in infants"
It was suggested that nursing mother's stop using the cream... ya think?
So what to do? Is it safer to use phenoxyethanol for external use at the limited concentration? I'm not so sure, but I do know that I have been replacing everything baby related with products that do not use it... rather safe than sorry.
Bubble and Bee's Chemical of the Day suggest not using it at all, based on a load of research which you will find in her report. I find the comments rather interesting, especially the one asking what we should do if we do choose to use things like makeup and sunscreen. She does offer suggestions and I do promise to keep looking but in the meantime, I have just been using my old drugstore powder (not my first choice) and my new natural phenoxyethanol-containing mascara. If I do find anything worthwhile, I'll write up some reviews in the road test section.