Phenoxyethanol is an oily, slightly sticky liquid with a faint rose-like scent. It is used as a preservative in a wide variety of both leave-on and rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products, including skin care, eye makeup, fragrances, blushers, foundations, lipstick, bath soaps, and detergents, among others. Phenoxyethanol is widely used as a synthetic preservative that has global approval for use in all cosmetic products in concentrations up to 1%. It’s often used in even lower amounts, such as when combined with other ingredients like ethylhexylglycerin.
Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?
Phenoxyethanol has been used safely since the 1950s as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products because it is highly effective in preventing the growth of fungi, bacteria, and yeast that could cause products to spoil.
Products that contain water are susceptible to mold, discoloration, or unpleasant odors caused by the bacteria and fungi naturally present in the environment. As cosmetics are used, they come in contact with the skin and applicators that contact the skin, thus potentially exposing the product to these harmful microorganisms.
Under certain conditions, an inadequately preserved product can become contaminated, which could cause health problems such as irritation or infection. Products contaminated by microorganisms may also negatively impact how the product performs, looks, feels, and smells. Preservatives like phenoxyethanol help prevent such problems.
Ingredients to Look For: Phenoxyethanol, 2-phenoxy, ethanol, 2-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether