1,4 dioxane has been found in numerous well known brand skincare products, including organic skincare products, according to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). In the study carried out by OCA, several leading "natural" and "organic" brand shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care products were tested by a reputable third-party laboratory for the presence of the undisclosed carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane.
So what is 1,4 dioxane anyway? It is a byproduct (or contaminant) of the ethoxylation process. The ethoxylation process is a route to some ingredients commonly used in cleansing and moisturizing products including many that are specially made for babies! By going through this process, the cleansing agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sufate become even more foamy and less abrasive.
This compound is irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. Exposure may cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. The U.S. environmental Protection Agency classifies dioxane as a probable human carcinogen. Under Proposition 65, dioxane is classified in the U.S. state of California to cause cancer.
Although the levels of dioxane found in the skincare products are low, the long term exposure to this compound is likely to post adverse health effects.
What you need to know is that this chemical isn't listed on product labels when it isn't an added ingredient. However if you want to try to avoid 1,4-dioxane, you'll need to look very carefully at ingredient labels. Often times, 1,4 dioxane is presented in the synthetic ethoxylated ingredients, such as:
those contain the word laureth, myreth, ceteareth, or oleth
those ending with -eth
the ones ending with -oxynol
polyethylene glycol (PEG)