Ingredient Watch: A Known Animal Carcinogen used in Skincare

Posted by Brett Ashley on

You might want to check your skincare labels to see if Polysorbate-20 is listed. We don't use Polysorbate-20 at Mother Earth Soapworks! Here's why:

What is Polysorbate-20?

Polysorbate is a harmless sorbitol in its original form as a sugar alcohol. Yet when it is used in personal care products, it is treated with ethylene oxide.

This results in an ingredient used as an emulsifier in cosmetic creams, lotions, cream deodorant, baby oil, sun lotion, etc.

The Concerns?

The issue with any ingredient that is treated with ethylene oxide is that it can then become contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a potentially dangerous by-product. 1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen that can penetrate into the skin. This ingredient has also been linked to skin allergies. A class-action lawsuit has been filed in New Jersey against manufacturers of children’s bath and personal care products because defendants manufactured, distributed, marketed, or sold products containing formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.

The Organic Consumers Organization, adopting information from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, released a fact sheet on 1,4-dioxane. The report shows that the levels of 1,4-dioxane found in many personal care products are 1,000 times higher than those found to cause cancer in animal studies. They also add that according to the FDA, “Skin absorption studies demonstrated that dioxane readily penetrates animal and human skin from various types of vehicles.”

This means that your skin could be absorbing a lot of the 1,4-dioxane in your products. Especially if you are taking a hot shower or bath and your pores are open.

Even More Concerns

In animal studies, high doses of polysorbate-20 resulted in developmental and reproductive toxicity. Moderate doses are also linked with skin irritation.

If you are exposed to this chemical once in a while, chances are you will be fine. The issue is that most of us use about 5 to 10 products a day, several times a day, and if some of those products contain polysorbate-20, the exposure could be extremely high.

Concerns are even greater for young children.

To discover if you are using Polysorbate-20, read ingredient lists on your labels. 

A Few Brands that use this ingredient:

Kid Kare, Afterglow Cosmetics, Daisy Blue, emerging, Lotus Moon, derma e, Kiss My Face, EO, Terra Firma, Alba


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