Preservatives in skin care - Which one should you avoid?

Common Chemical Preservatives in Skincare and Cosmetics

  • Phenoxyethanol
  • AVOID:
    • Methylisothiazolinone,
    • Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate,
    • Ethylhexylglycerin 
    • Methylparaben
    • Glycol ethers
    • Ethylene glycol ethyl ether
    • Ethylene glycol methyl ether

Why Phenoxyethanol is one of the best:

  • Phenoxyethanol does not disrupt the natural skin microbiome
    • "Phenoxyethanol exhibits a weaker inhibitory effect on normal skin-resident bacteria than other cosmetic chemical preservatives (e.g. methylisothiazolinone, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, ethylhexylglycerin and methylparaben)"
  • Phenoxyethanol does Not have toxic effects on reproduction
    • However, the chemical and physical properties of phenoxyethanol differ from those of these glycol ethers (e.g. it is not volatile) and phenoxyethanol was not classified as a reproductive toxicant in EC No 1272/2008 unlike some other glycol ethers.
  • Phenoxyethanol does not disrupt the Endocrine system
    • "In June 2015, the high-throughput Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) determined that phenoxyethanol had no oestrogenic activity."
  • Despite its widespread use in cosmetic products, phenoxyethanol is only a rare sensitizer and it can be considered as one of the most well-tolerated preservatives used in cosmetic products


Source =    Dréno, B., Zuberbier, T., Gelmetti, C., Gontijo, G. and Marinovich, M. (2019), Safety review of phenoxyethanol when used as a preservative in cosmetics. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, 33: 15-24. 

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