Is phenoxyethanol safe for skin?

Phenoxyethanol is a common cosmetic preservative that is considered one of the least irritating to use in formulations. It does not release formaldehyde. Phenoxyethanol is approved for worldwide use in all types of water-based cosmetics, up to a 1% concentration. The safety of phenoxyethanol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel several times. This group evaluated the scientific data plus the newer, relevant data and concluded that phenoxyethanol was safe as a cosmetic ingredient. Interestingly, although phenoxyethanol used in skin care is almost always synthetic, this chemical occurs naturally in green tea.

Further studies and accumulated safety data have shown that phenoxyethanol was practically nontoxic via oral and dermal (skin) administration. In a study examining oral intake, increased weights of some organs were noted when high doses of phenoxyethanol were swallowed. The doses in this study were considered to be much higher than those resulting from use of cosmetics and personal care products containing phenoxyethanol (plus cosmetics aren’t mean to be eaten). In short, phenoxyethanol is considered a safe and effective preservative when used in amounts approved for use in leave-on or rinse-off cosmetic products. (Source: Cosmetics & Toiletries, June 2014, pages 24-27).

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you sort through the myths and half-truths of the cosmetic industry. With their expert advice, you’ll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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