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Written by Mindy Goldstein, PhD (Mindy S. Goldstein, PhD Consulting) and Irwin Palefsky (Cosmetech Laboratories, Inc.)  


Recently the New York State Legislature passed a bill that prohibits the sale of cosmetics, personal care or cleaning products containing trace amounts of 1,4-Dioxane.

The threshold contamination for leave-on cosmetics is not to exceed 10 parts per million and for rinse-off personal care products such as shampoos and cleansers (i.e. mostly down the drain products) it is 2 parts per million by December 31, 2022 and not to exceed 1 part per million by December 31, 2023. These levels will be reviewed again in 2025 and every two years after that, hence they may be lowered even further.

The compound 1,4-dioxane is a trace contaminant in some cosmetic products. While it is not added as an ingredient in cosmetics it may be present in extremely small amounts in some cosmetics.1,4-dioxane forms as a byproduct during the manufacturing process of certain cosmetic ingredients.

These ingredients include certain detergents, foaming agents, emulsifiers and solvents identifiable by the prefix, word, or syllables: “PEG”, “Polyethylene glycol”, “Polyoxyethylene”, “-eth-“, or “-oxynol-.” Ethoxylation, or the addition of ethylene oxide or polyethylene glycol to a material is primarily used to increase or control the water solubility of a predominantly water insoluble material.

This led to the use of ethoxylated surfactants/emulsifiers as workhorses in making stable creams and lotions, cleansing products as well as their use as solubilizers for oils and fragrances (i.e. polysorbate-80, sodium laureth sulfate, PEG-100 stearate, laureth-23).  


Because of the “1,4 Dioxane” issue there is a growing need to look for alternatives to ethoxylated materials.

Don’t panic!

Currently there are a number of ingredients available in the industry. The technology that has surfaced as the most viable option to ethoxylates is the use of polyglycerin esters. Polyglycerol derived materials are produced by the addition of multiple glycerin units to a material to control its water solubility and allow their use as emulsifiers and solubilizers.

Examples of some of these commercially available materials are:

  • polyglyceryl-6 laurate, polyglyceryl-3 stearate, polyglyceryl-6 caprylate,
  • polyglyceryl-6 ricinoleate,
  • polyglyceryl-6 distearate.
  • Additional emulsifiers such as sucrose esters, and glucosides are also being used as alternatives to ethoxylates (i.e. sucrose stearate, cocoyl glucoside).

It is important to note that none of these options are a direct one to one replacement for the ethoxylated surfactants. The use of these materials in place of ethoxylates does require case by case evaluation.

For further discussion, feel free to contact us directly. 


About the authors

Dr. Goldstein received her Bachelor of Science with honors in Biochemistry, Masters of Science in Pathology and Ph.D. in Basic Medical Sciences from New York University in the area of UV and gamma radiation damage to DNA and DNA repair. She has been credited with more than eleven publications in scientific journals and books and has been awarded patents in the area of raw materials, encapsulation and controlled release.

Dr. Goldstein has been in the cosmetic industry since 1987 and most recently was Vice President of Research & Development and Product Development for Atlantic Coast Brands in Jersey City. She has consulted within the personal care, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. Previously, Dr. Goldstein served as Executive Director, Research & Development, for The Estee Lauder Companies in Melville, NY. Her responsibilities included supplier contact for REACH activities, internal commercialization of new treatment actives for all of the Estee Lauder brands, troubleshooting formulation issues with active materials, encapsulation technology and identifying new platform technologies. She has also held Directors positions in R & D at Bath & Body Works, Lipo Chemicals and Collaborative Laboratories.

Dr. Goldstein is an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and is currently President of the National Society leading to President. She served as the Chair of the Long Island Chapter in 1994, the Chair of the Committee on Scientific Affairs in 1998 and 2009, and the National President of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists in 2002.

Dr. Goldstein was editor twice for the Journal of Cosmetic Science and currently is a reviewer for the Journal. She is a member of numerous professional and scientific organizations including the PCPC Nomenclature Committee where she is chair of the subcommittee on biotechnology, botanicals and ferments. Dr. Goldstein also serves as an advisor to Cosmetic and Toiletries magazine.


Irwin has been in the Cosmetic Industry for over 40 years, of which 25 years have been in R&D. He has been with Cosmetech Laboratories since 2000. Prior to joining Cosmetech Laboratories, Irwin held senior executive positions in sales, business development and technical services at Lipo Chemicals. Irwin has been an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists where he served as NY Chapter Chair and a Director on the Board of the National Society. He has taught courses on Cosmetic Formulations at the University level and for the Society of Cosmetic Chemists Education program.


"Content provided by Mindy S. Goldstein, PhD Consulting. Examples, images, and references are provided for informational purposes only. The information is the opinion of the author and its appearance in this blog is not considered an endorsement by the SCC.  SCC makes no representation, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information contained therein."