Common cosmetics preservative that’s considered one of the least irritating for use in formulations. It does not release formaldehyde. Phenoxyethanol is approved worldwide (including in Japan and in the EU) for use in all types of water-based cosmetics, up to a 1% concentration. [1]

The safety of phenoxyethanol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel several times. This group evaluated the foundational scientific data plus the newer relevant data, and concluded that phenoxyethanol is safe as a cosmetic ingredient. Interestingly, although the phenoxyethanol used in skincare products is almost always synthetic, this chemical occurs naturally in green tea. [1]

Further studies and accumulated safety data have shown that phenoxyethanol is 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 much higher than those that would result from using cosmetics and personal care products that contain phenoxyethanol (plus cosmetics aren’t meant 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 cosmetics products. [1]

References Cited:

  1. Krowka J, Loretz L, Brzuska K, Almeida J, Diehl M, Gonsior S, Johnson A, Sellam S, Bade S, Champ S. Phenoxyethanol as a Safe and Important Preservative in Personal Care. Cosm & Toil. 2014;129(5):24-27.
See preservatives

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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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