Specifically, let's talk about phenoxyethenol. It's the one ingredient in our ingredients list we wish we could leave out, because of the controversy surrounding it. However, the formula requires a preservative and we feel that this is the best option out there right now. Let us explain...
We firmly believe that in low levels, it is safe as a preservative. And there's tons of research to back us up. It is widely used in many parts of the world, including the European Union and Japan (where standards for cosmetics and body care products are far stricter than in the US), at up to a 1% level. Our formula stands at considerably less, 0.5%.
We have done so much research around preservatives, and have yet to find the perfect one – it seems that every single option has its own controversy. Most of the alternatives that are available (and that many of our competitors use) are parabens or are chemicals that release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals have been linked to cancer! We have been horrified to pick up wipes at boutiques to see parabens and formaldehyde-releasers on the ingredients list.
But it's up to each company to make their own decision. And all moist towelettes require a preservative because of the water content and the presence of nutrients (in our case, organic essential oils). Even using anti-microbial or anti-fungal essential oils alone wouldn’t do the trick. And having microbes or fungus in your body care products would be far worse for your health, without a doubt.
Here are are few facts about phenoxyethanol that helped us make the decision:
• Phenoxyethanol can be found naturally in green tea, the commercial ingredient is a “nature identical” chemical that’s produced in a lab
• It’s been tested on the skin and eyes and it is non-irritating and non-sensitizing at levels of 2.2% or lower while being effective at only 1% concentrations (our formula falls far below the recommendation, at .05%)
• Phenoxyethanol is included in the Handbook of Green Chemicals and is also Whole Foods Premium Body Care approved, with some of the strictest standards that exist
• Research has shown that even premature newborns can quickly metabolize this preservative
However - we don't like controversy to surround our product and are constantly researching to find safe alternatives. We have to make sure that no bacteria or fungi show up in the towelettes, even if they have been on the shelf for months. In the past, plant based preservatives have not passed our microbial challenge test. We are working very hard, as always, to constantly improve our formula. (We are not scientists but we work very closely with the scientists at our lab.)