Is Phenoxyethanol harmful to skin?

Is Phenoxyethanol harmful to skin?

The safety concerns of Phenoxyethanol are no longer a secret in recent years, and for good reasons, so many skincare and cosmetic products used daily contain Phenoxyethanol as a preservative. But, is Phenoxyethanol safe for use or harmful to the skin?

In moderate quantities, Phenoxyethanol is safe for all consumers. Sadly, Phenoxyethanol is popularly known for being harmful as some use cases have proven to cause severe eye irritation and redness, numbness, and dryness of the skin. But FDA‘s recommended dosage for safe use in cosmetic products that contain Phenoxyethanol is at a 1% or less concentration which in many cases cosmetologists use Phenoxyethanol to only preserve cosmetic products.

Seriously! With most of our day to day skincare product having a massive list of ingredients and long “unmemorable” names, I am not alone to find them less important. So, I know how easy it can be to ignore them completely.

Phenoxyethanol aside, it is imperative to do your research about a product, especially when it seems to have an ingredient that is very new to you.

A wide range of products has been found to have chemical ingredients that can harm your skin and overall health. And one of the chemicals is Phenoxyethanol. There is so much debate about whether it is safe or not.

So many research studies have been done on the safety of Phenoxyethanol, and results seem to contradict one another and most of it even appears to be inconsistent. According to one study, this compound was reported that Phenoxyethanol is harmful as it can cause severe eye irritation and redness, numbness, and dryness of the skin.

In another study, it was discovered that the chemical is very toxic, especially for infants. Here, the study stated that Phenoxyethanol can harm the brain and suppress their central nervous system, particularly when it has been inhaled. As such, any product that contains Phenoxyethanol should not be used by a breastfeeding mom.

Irrespective of the adverse side effects of this chemical, the FDA considers it to be quite safe, hence allows the use of this ingredient in cosmetics. According to recent studies, Phenoxyethanol is safe for all consumers when used at a 1% or less concentration to preserve cosmetic products.
In this article, we want to shed some light Phenoxyethanol and talk more about its safeness. So keep scrolling.

Is the Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser good for acne?

Find out why dermatologists recommend this product more than the others…

What Is Phenoxyethanol?

Phenoxyethanol is simply defined as an organic compound that is used as an antimicrobial and preservative for so many products.

Phenoxyethanol is commonly used in cosmetics and skin care products because it is very effective in the prevention of bacterial growth. This chemical is also said to enhance the product’s shelf life.

Which products contain Phenoxyethanol?

Just like many other ingredients, Phenoxyethanol is found in so many cosmetics and beauty products, some of which include:

  • Blush
  • Perfume
  • Soaps
  • Lipstick
  • Foundation
  • Hand sanitizer, and the list is endless

Does Phenoxyethanol have another name?

Thanks to the media and posts such as the one you are reading right now, many people are now being aware of the negative side effects that are brought about when a product containing Phenoxyethanol is used.

As such, some cosmetic companies may use alternative names in order to trick the customers in buying the product. It is very common.

Below are some of the alternative names to Phenoxyethanol. Hope you don’t get tricked next time.

  • Beta-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether
  • Ethylene glycol monophenyl ether
  • Dowanol
  • Rose ether
  • 2-Phenoxyethanol
  • PhE
  • Phenoxetol
  • Euxyl K® 400 ( which is simply a mixture of Phenoxyethanol and 1,2-dibromo-2, and 4-dicyanobutane)
    Other harmful ingredients

Besides Phenoxyethanol, there are so many other harmful ingredients that are included in skin care and cosmetic products. In this section, we want to walk you through the other ingredients that you should look out for.


Commonly used as chemical preservatives, Parabens can be found in a wide array of personal care products such as moisturizers, shampoos, foundations and so many more.

Over the past few years there has been a huge, endless debate on whether parabens are safe in skin care products or not. The debate still continues until today.

Dermatologists say that, when taken in excessive amounts, parabens may lead to serious health illnesses such as breast cancer.

On the other hand, some of them argue that parabens do not cause you any harm, even when you are exposed to such products on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, everyone’s skin reacts differently depending on various chemicals as well as the skin type of that person.

Therefore, it is suggested that you stay far away from parabens as you can. Luckily, there are so many skin care products that do not contain parabens.


The safeness of sulfates has been on a debate just as much as the debate on parabens has. Some say it causes no problem in small amounts while others say it can cause cancer, especially when it has been combined with other substances or when it has been subjected to a lot of heat.

But, just like parabens, sulfates are also found in variety of products. Sulfates are also included in products such as toothpastes and facial cleansers because they also help with foaming.

Chances are, you probably are contacting with sulfates on a daily basis. They are really hard to escape, unlike parabens.

There are so many different types of sulfates out there. Some of the most common ones that are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as well as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

Beauty Beware: The Dangers of Toxic...

Besides the fact that they are generally not safe for the skin, sulfates are also known to strip away valuable moisture and protective barriers, which can lead to skin irritations.


Phthalates are used in cosmetics as lubricants (softeners). You can find these in products such as nail polish, moisturizers, shampoos, hair sprays, toys, detergents, and other variety of products.

They are known to be endocrine disruptors that is linked to breast cancer and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Phthalates is also known to have some possible effects on hormones. Unfortunately, this is included in many “fragrances” so it is hard to detect in products. Here are some ways to avoid phthalates.


This is where it all gets disappointing. So many of us (including me) love products that give you a great smell as soon as you apply them. Most of these products have the label “perfumed” on them.

But are they really safe for our skin?

No. fragrances are just as bad as parabens are. In fact, they might be worse
But why are they bad? I love it when my skin smells good.

Fragrances is basically a blend of sweet-smelling extracts that come from natural as well as synthetic ingredients.

These chemicals are said to be used in over 50% of beauty products around the globe. Fragrance actually has so many unknown toxic chemicals that can be harmful to you. The worst part is that most of the chemicals that are used to make fragrances are not indicated on the ingredients list, so there’s no way of knowing.

And, without your knowledge, fragrance can irritate skin, have toxic hormonal effects. It can even go as far as causing cancer if used repeatedly.

But regardless of that, the It will indeed smell wonderful. However, the effects won’t be so wonderful on your skin and overall health.

Therefore, it is recommended that you look for products that are free of fragrances. If at all possible, try to find natural fragrances that are free of chemicals.


Before we explain on alcohols, let’s just make one thing clear: Alcohols are divided into two types. There are good and bad alcohols. We will only be talking about the bad ones

Common examples of Bad alcohols are methanol, isopropyl alcohol, propanol, benzyl alcohol, and sd alcohol (alcohol denat.)- The list goes on.

These bad alcohols can be cause a great drying and irritating effects to the skin. On the other hand, they strip the skin off of its natural protection. This can result into the development of inflammations on the skin, which can take a while to go away.

Alcohols also destroy the substances that protects your skin’s health, and they do this by simply breaking the barrier that protects your skin. In the long run, this can lead to early skin wrinkles. On top of that, the breaking of the skin’s natural barrier can lead to increase of acne causing bacteria, which will make inflammation worse.

On the plus side though, alcohols feel good because they are lightweight, hence they give you skin a non-greasy feeling.

Bottom line

Phenoxyethanol is important in most beauty products, mainly because the chemical helps in keeping the products safe from bacteria while enhancing the product’s shelf life.

But, for the skin, this chemical is actually very harmful. It can also cause unwanted side effects if the product is swallowed or even inhaled, especially to nursing mothers or infants. The studies about it have shown a wide range of safety concerns.

So far, we know that Phenoxyethanol can have an effect on the brain and the central nervous system. On top of that, it can cause pretty intense irritations to the eyes and skin.

The FDA considers it safe when used in small amount. Although many skin care products use this chemical in small amounts, if you use the product multiple times a day, on a daily basis, it will most certainly cumulate and eventually affect you.

If you want to be sure if a particular skin care product contains a safe concentration of Phenoxyethanol, you should consider seeking medical advice to a certified-board dermatologist.

Recent Posts