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Everything You Need To Know To Find The Best Ethoxylated Alcohol Toxicity



Feb. 04, 2024
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I started Beauty Heroes to help others discover healthy beauty brands, and I love talking about the all the good stuff in our products, the Superpowers. It’s much easier and more fun to explore the benefits of wholesome, high quality, sustainably sourced ingredients. It’s been a career-long, continuing education to try to make sense of the potentially harmful ingredients that can be found in our skin, body and hair care products. Widespread studies are sparse, and I find myself reading conflicting reports from chemists, regulators and of course ingredient manufacturers. Because there is so much confusion and so little transparency, Beauty Heroes established a strict Ingredient Standard, outlining all of the toxic beauty ingredients we ban. We’re happy to say that this list includes the most common ethoxylated ingredients in cosmetics, skincare, hair care and body care products, a class of ingredients that is more dubious than most.

When it comes to ingredients to be concerned with, this class is top of this list because of their potential to be contaminated with 1,4, Dioxane, a carcinogen and nerve toxin.  It’s listed as one of the ingredients known to cause cancer under California’s Prop 65. 1,4 Dioxane is a solvent and stabilizer that is used in all kinds of products such as adhesives, inks, nail polish and more. Why would this ingredient every appear in a skincare product?  The answer is that while it may not be added to a formulation, 1,4 Dioxane is a by-product the process of ethoxylation – the adding of ethylene oxide (sometimes many times over) and a catalyst to fatty alcohols resulting in a surfactant with foaming, cleansing or solvent properties. Ethoxylated surfactants are found in laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, skincare products, toothpaste, body washes, bubble baths and very commonly in hair care products.

When it comes to hair care products, like shampoo and conditioner, it is especially hard to find formulas that are free from ethoxylates because they do a really great job of foaming up, stripping oil and giving you that super-clean feeling.  In the meantime, they may be lined with 1,4 Dioxane that washes over your hair and body, several times a week.

One well known surfactant that is commonly found in hair products is Sodium Laureth Sulfate, but there are many others.  In lieu of ethoxylated ingredients, clean hair care formulas will use saponified coconut oil and other, milder surfactants and fatty acids that may be more expensive and harder to formulate with, but safer to use.

But how do you know if an ingredient is ethoxylated?  It’s not an easy answer, but here’s a list of the most common ethoxylated ingredients found in skincare, hair care and body care products:


Acrylates/Steareth-20 Itaconate Copolymer

Ammonium Capryleth Sulfate

Ammonium Pareth-25 Sulfate

Ammonium Myreth Sulfate

Ceteareth -20

Cocamidopropyl Betaines

Disteareth-75 IPDI, -100 IPDI

Emulsifying Wax NF


Steareth – 2, -4, 10, 16, -20, 21

Isosteareth -2, -10, -20

Magnesium Laureth Sulfate

Magnesium Oleth Sulfate

PEG’s – ingredients listed as a polyethylene glycol or with a PEG- prefix such as PEG-20, PEG 40 etc.



Polysorbate-20, -40, -60, -80

Steareth-2, -4, -10, -16, -20, -21

Sodium Coceth Sulfate

Sodium Deceth Sulfate

Sodium Oleth Sulfate 

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium Myreth Sulfate

Additional resources:
What are the applications of lithium aluminium deuteride?
What is Carboxymethyl Cellulose (CMC)?
Medical Intermediate: An Essential Component in the Pharmaceutical Industry
What is Hydroxy Ethyl Cellulose?
Unraveling the Benefits of Embroidery Adhesive
Enhancing Embroidery Artistry: Exploring the Wonders of Embroidery Adhesive
What is the process of blending NPK fertilizer?

Sodium Trideceth Sulfate 

Zinc Coceth Sulfate


The FDA’s last update on 1,4 Dioxane happened in 2007, making it hard to trust that they are actively following the on-going research on this known carcinogen.

The good news is that there are so many options when it comes to truly healthy beauty, from hair care to makeup and everything in between, there is no sacrificing performance when embracing healthy beauty.

  • Derived from: coconut

  • Pronunciation: (\ˈal-kə-ˌhȯl\ \ˈetho-zī-lāt\)

  • Type: Naturally-derived

What Is C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate?

C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate is a potassium salt of a mixture of phosphate esters of ethoxylated lauryl alcohol with an average ethoxylation value between 1 and 3.[1]

This ethoxylated alcohol consists of linear C12 to C14 chain lengths  to make the formula  C12-14H25-29O(C2H4O)nH where n = 1-10.

What Does C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate Do in Our products?

C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate is a surfactant that breaks the surface tension of water, allowing things to become clean. It can be found in dozens of personal care products, such as baby wipes, exfoliants, laundry detergent, dish soap, acne treatments, and other products.[2,3]


This ingredient is used as a surfactant and emulsifier in skincare products, particularly for treating acne and other skin irritations, as well as face moisturizers and cleansers. Safe concentrations are usually in the range of 0.03 to 4%.


The ingredient is widely used in shampoo and conditioners for its cleansing properties. It easily dissolves in water, plus is not irritable to the skin and eyes when it comes into contact.

  • Cancer: low risk

  • Allergies and Immunotoxicity: low risk

  • Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity: low risk

  • Use Restrictions: low risk

How C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate Is Made

Commercial alcohol ethoxylate is a mixture of several homologues of varying carbon chain length and degree of ethoxylation. Homologues that are not ethoxylated are also called aliphatic alcohols or simply fatty alcohols.[4]

Is C10-C16 Alcohol Ethoxylate safe?

Learn about how safe this ingredient is, as well as its environmental impact.

Health Safety

The EPA confirms that this ingredient has low safety concerns in cleaning products. In cosmetic and skincare usage, it is also considered safe and non-irritating.

Environmental Impact

The ingredient is highly biodegradable, and it also has low acute toxicity to aquatic life. 

Why Puracy Uses C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate

We use C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate as an alternative to ammonia, petroleum distillates and propellants. The FDA has deemed the ingredient generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for use in adhesives.[5] It has the unique ability to clean a surface and then evaporate without leaving a residue (which is especially helpful when cleaning glass, stainless steel and similar surfaces). Whole Foods has deemed the ingredient acceptable in its body care quality standards.[6] Although ethoxylated alcohols may experience 1,4 dioxane contamination as a byproduct of the production process, the EPA considers it safe to consume water with 4 ppm of 1,4 dioxane for one day or 0.4 ppm of 1,4 dioxane for 10 days.[7] 

A study of workers exposed to 0.006–14.3 ppm 1,4-dioxane for an average of 25 years found no evidence of liver or kidney disease or any other clinical effects, and another study found no differences between observed and expected incidences of cancer among workers at a manufacturing and processing facility.[8] Puracy has signed certifications from our ingredient providers that show no more than 2 ppm of 1,4 dioxane in our most concentrated finished product. We only use these ingredients in cleaners, which are rinsed or wiped away with a cloth rather than applied to the skin.


[1] Environmental Working Group
[2] Environmental Working Group
[3] Environmental Working Group
[4] Sanderson, H. et al., "Occurrence and risk screening of alcohol ethoxylate surfactants in three U.S. river sediments associated with wastewater treatment plants," Science of the Total Environment Volumes 463–464, 1 October 2013, Pages 600–610
[5] Food and Drug Administration
[6] Whole Foods Market
[8] Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
[9] Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Everything You Need To Know To Find The Best Ethoxylated Alcohol Toxicity

C10-C16 Alcohol Ethoxylate

Additional resources:
What is difference between plastic emulsion and acrylic emulsion?
Which grade of HPMC is best?
Accelerate Your Research with Custom Organic Synthesis Services
Benefits and Applications of Hydroxy Ethyl Cellulose (HEC)
What is copper sulfate mainly used for?
Tantalum-Tungsten Alloy: The Best Choice for High Strength and Toughness Materials
Is sodium cumene sulfonate safe?



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