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* A surfactant
* Please read TIA’s article on What Is It: PEGs
PEG 8 Laurate is the polyethylene glycol ester of Lauric Acid and is used in cosmetics and beauty products as a surfactant and emulsifying agent. PEG 8 Laurate's low molecular weight means that it is minimally absorbed by the skin (Source).
The inclusion of Lauric Acid, or coconut oil, makes this PEG more irritating than other PEGs, which are generally considered non-irritants. Although coconut oil is touted for its moisturizing and anti-microbial properties, it is considered an allergen. It is primarily used as a fragrance ingredient and surfactant in cosmetics and beauty products. PEG 8 Laurate is FDA and CIR approved for use, but not on broken skin.
Despite the many fears regarding PEGs, they are seen as an ingredient in a large number of products because of their diverse properties. In a study published in the Toxicology journal in 2005, entitled "Safety assessment on polyethylene glycols (PEGs) and their derivatives as used in cosmetic products," it was concluded that: "Taking into consideration all available information from related compounds, as well as the mode and mechanism of action, no safety concern with regard to these endpoints could be identified. Based on the available data it is therefore concluded that PEGs of a wide molecular weight range (200 to over 10,000), their ethers (laureths, ceteths, ceteareths, steareths, and oleths), and fatty acid esters (laurates, dilaurates, stearates, distearates) are safe for use in cosmetics."
Safety Measures/Side Effects:
The Cosmetics Database found PEG 8 Laurate to be a moderate to high hazard, in part because of its inclusion of Lauric Acid. It notes the organ toxicity and contamination concerns associated with all PEGs, and also allergies and immunotoxicity concerns associated with its rating of Lauric Acid.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Toxicology, PEGs (including PEG 8 Laurate) can contain harmful impurities, including: Ethylene Oxide, known to increase the incidences of uterine and breast cancers and of leukemia and brain cancer, according to experimental results reported by the National Toxicology Program; 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen; PAHs, known to increase the risk of breast cancer; lead; iron; and arsenic (Source).
Products and formulas containing PEGs should not be used on broken or irritated skin. Although PEGs are considered safe for use topically on healthy skin, studies showed that patients suffering from severe burns were treated with PEG-based antimicrobial cream; this treatment resulted in kidney toxicity. "The PEG content of the antimicrobial cream was determined to be the causative agent. However, no evidence of systemic toxicity occurred in studies with intact skin. Because of the observation of kidney effects in burn patients, the CIR Expert Panel qualified their conclusion on the safety of the PEG ingredients to state that cosmetic formulations containing these ingredients should not be used on damaged skin" (CosmeticsInfo.org).