Chemical Ingredients in Adult Wipes | Etiquette May 25, 2015 20:10

Etiquette has taken care to formulate an organic-based wipe solution with proper ingredients in the best amounts in support of great personal skin care and tush hygiene after a trip to the bathroom.

Having said that, we do not take the extreme, and in our view, hyperbolic position sometimes seen on the Internet regarding some chemical compounds and their role in various skin care products. We certainly believe companies should constantly evaluate the health effects of various compounds at different concentrations and pursue sound practices that have been shown to be the safest and most effective. Etiquette monitors the research on personal care product ingredients to maintain the highest standard of safety, quality and efficacy.

You should stay away from toxic chemicals, no doubt, but also understand there is information on the Internet from people who have little to no knowledge of basic chemistry and biology, nevermind biochemistry, and microbiology; and even less knowledge of these subjects in the context of human physiology. A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review board (CIR), was established in 1976 to assess cosmetic ingredient safety in an unbiased, independent forum. The CIR is comprised of an expert panel of respected physicians and scientists. While this Board is not perfect, they do a good job in evaluating the ingredients in cosmetics and some personal care products.

Common, potentially problematic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products - including wet wipes - that Etiquette has avoided: 

Propylene and Butylene glycol - These chemicals are humectants and surfactants (wetting agents and solvents). 

Propylene glycol is used as a humectant (meaning it helps to keep things moist), a solvent, and a preservative in some cosmetics and personal care products. Propylene glycol is also used in various food products. Processed food is loaded with chemicals that are not found in real food. The hazards of processed food notwithstanding, the Final Report of the CIR Expert Panel regarding Propylene Glycol as published in the Journal of American Toxicology (13(6): 437-491, 1994) concludes that propylene glycol is safe for use in cosmetic products at concentrations up to 50 percent. Propylene glycol is generally used in concentrations below 10 percent in cosmetic products. 

Butylene glycol is also a humectant used in cosmetics to bind moisture and hold water to the skin. According to the CIR panel, as printed in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, butylene glycol is "safe as presently used in cosmetics." 

DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine) & TEA (triethanolamine) These compounds reduce the surface tension of substances so that water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients can be evenly blended together. They are also used to control the pH level of a formulation.

The problem lies in these ingredients being possible hormone disrupting chemicals that can form cancer-causing nitrates. The CIR warns that these ingredients should not be used in products containing N-nitrosating agents to prevent the formation of possibly carcinogenic nitrosamines. Meanwhile, DEA can also be found in some pesticides. The World Health Organization lists it as an unclassified carcinogen.

Regarding ethanolamines in general, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel concluded they were only safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin.

In products intended for more prolonged contact with the skin, the concentration of TEA and DEA should not exceed 5 percent, and ethanolamine should be used only in rinse-off products.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) - Widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. This compound in and of itself may not be harmful, but the catch is, depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide has been classified as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen.

ParabensParabens are among the most commonly used preservatives in cosmetic products. Studies show that various parabens are weakly estrogenic. In a review of the estrogenic activity of parabens, it was concluded that based on maximum daily exposure estimates, it was implausible that parabens could increase the risk associated with exposure to estrogenic chemicals (Golden et al., in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 2005). There are many estrogenic compounds we are exposed to daily that are influencing our physiology. Why add another to the list, as long as there are alternatives, and there are.

Alcohol, Isoproplyl (SD-40) - A potentially drying, irritating solvent that can reduce skin moisture making it more vulnerable to various problems.

Synthetic Colors and Dyes - The synthetic colors used to make personal care products and cosmetics more visually appealing should be avoided. Many synthetic colors and dyes have shown cancer-causing properties. Examples of common syntheic colors include: FD&C Red No. 6 along with D&C Green No. 6. 

Fragrances -  Like synthetic colors, this group could include many, many ingredients and some can be toxic or carcinogenic. Fragrances and perfumes may contribute to mild allergic reactions causing sneezing or watery eyes, but they may also bring about a more significant contact dermatitis producing red, sore, or inflamed skin after direct contact. Some fragrances may affect the nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, and irritability.

Possible Hidden Ingredients in Wet Wipes

Ettiquete has taken care to formulate a product that does not use any hidden ingredients.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) does good work, but one should still parse their information and think about it intelligently. EWG claims their analysis of impurities in cosmetics and personal care products shows that "95% of baby wipes might contain problem chemicals."

First off, note the word might. And secondly, of course they do not mention the concentrations of these compounds. We touched on the importance of concentration in the findings of the CIR discussed above.

Let us illustrate...people with a swimming pool will often have to use hydrochloric acid to adjust the pH of their pool water. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is a toxic chemical. If you drink it, you will die. If you splash it on your face and in your eyes you will experience a chemical burn and lose your vision.

However, when you put HCL in your swimming pool to adjust the pH, you can frolic around and have a good time while splashing about in a mixture containing "dangerous" hydrochloric acid. You can even open your eyes and not be bothered! See what we mean?

While certain chemicals should be avoided at all costs no matter what the concentration, many chemicals can become useful and innocuous when used at the proper concentrations. 

The hidden ingredients mentioned below that are found in some wipes are not required to be listed on the label because they are:

  • impurities, contaminants or byproducts of manufacturing processes performed to produce the final product 
  • they get released over time after the product is in the bottle 
  • the product’s ingredients break down and form a contaminant over time

The FDA does not require these types of "contaminants" to be disclosed on product labels, so consumers do not know if their products are contaminated. One way to be certain that you are not buying a contaminated product is to avoid buying products with ingredients that may become potentially contaminated. 

Nevertheless, the information does provide some level of awareness of the phenomenon that can occur when mixing ingredients in order to come up with a proper wipe formula that provides an overwhelming benefit to people. 

Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Propylene Glycol, and 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol - They are common baby wipes ingredients. One of them, 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, a common preservative, besides being an irritant and a toxicant, over time releases formaldehyde and, in addition, it may also break down and recombine into nitrosamines.

Formaldehyde - The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recognized formaldehyde as a carcinogen. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has classified it as a “suspected human carcinogen.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer has defined formaldehyde as “carcinogenic to humans,” and the U.S. National Toxicology Program has described it as among those substances that are “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens.”

Many Federal agencies have designated formaldehyde as a cancer-causing chemical and the Environmental Working Group has given it the worst score for its negative health impact. Click here for a thorough list of known and suspected human carcinogens.

Nitrosamines - Nitrosamines are potentially common hidden ingredients in baby wipes since some baby wipe chemical ingredients may eventually break down and recombine into nitrosamines. Numerous studies and databases link nitrosamines to cancer. 

PEG-75 LanolinPEG 75 Lanolin is not considered to be an irritant or sensitizer, and is CIR and FDA approved for use, but not on broken skin. Because PEG 75 Lanolin has a higher molecular weight, it is not absorbed by the skin. unless the skin is damaged. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Cosmetics Database has found PEG 75 Lanolin to be a moderate hazard depending on usage, because of contamination and toxicity concerns, however, in our opinion, the EWG has a very low threshold to label a chemical compound a hazard, and generally errs on the side of caution...not that there is anything wrong with that.

Polysorbate-20a surfactant and emulsifier used in cleaners and personal care products. There is not a lot of evidence that this is harmful, but it may be a contamination concern.

Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-Dioxane - Although the just mentioned ingredients, PEG-75 Lanolin and Polysorbate-20, are not a major concern by themselves, they could be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, creating potential hidden dangerous ingredients in baby wipes.

Ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane are considered probable carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, respectively. These compounds are impurities in polyethylene glycol (PEG) manufacturing, but because of the potential danger they pose to humans, they must be removed before PEG can be used in cosmetics and personal care products. How well they are removed may be a concern with some manufacturers around the world.

Apparently, unless the PEG manufacturer uses a vacuum-stripping method to get rid of 1,4-dioxane, ethylene Oxide and 1,4-dioxane can remain in the baby wipes.

According to the EWG, the presence of 1,4-dioxane in baby wipes is of special concern because they can be potent skin irritants and can be absorbed through the skin in toxic amounts.

Fragrance - Fragrance can occur as a mixture of hidden ingredients in baby wipes. Most companies do not disclose fragrance ingredients to US consumers despite the fact that a lot of people have allergies to the chemical compounds that produce the fragrance.

Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and potential effects on the reproductive system. Overall, the EWG has given fragrance a rating of moderate to high health concern based primarily on their potential to cause allergies and immunotoxicity

Should you use your own homemade wet wipe formula or "recipe?"

We respect the desire of some of our male and female customers to use their own homemade recipe for their personal care after going to the bathroom.

That is why the Etiquette dispenser can be purchased empty. Readers who prefer to make their own bathroom hygiene solution from a natural recipe may still use our great dispenser!

For those who prefer to use Etiquette's formulation, you should know that it was developed by a USDA certified and EcoCert organic lab, please see our ingredients below.

etiquette cleansing formula ingredients

The ingredient list of THE hygiene solution from Etiquette is as follows:
Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Organic
Citric Acid & Silver Citrate
Xanthan Gum
Decyl Glucoside
Retinyl Palmitate
Ascorbyl Palmitate
Tocopheryl Acetate
Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract
Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Extract
Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Organic


This formula has undergone a safety evaluation by a European firm that uses more stringent criteria than are used in the United States. There were no safety concerns raised with the ingredients in Etiquette's formula.

That being said, we welcome constructive input on THE bathroom hygiene solution. The culture at Etiquette is one of always striving to be better in all of our company's endeavors.