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Veterinarian Reviewed on January 9, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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Phenoxethanol is a glycol ether which is classified as an organic chemical compound. It appears as a colorless and oily liquid when in room temperature. It is used in many skin care products and also in cosmetics because of its preservative property and Fragrance.
Phenoxethanol is also an important ingredient in making topical antiseptics and other pharmaceutical products because of its antibacterial properties.

History and Origin

Phenoxethanol is also known as ethanol, phenoxytol, 2-phenoxy and many other chemical terms. It is synthesized in the laboratory and is usually used together with quarternary ammonium compounds as an effective bactericide and buffers in many chemical reactions in a laboratory setting.

Ancient Uses

The use of Phenoxethanol during ancient times was unheard of. However, fragrances were of the utmost importance in many cultures and denoted social standing; skin care and hair care products back then were mostly derived from Herbs, spices and fruit extracts. Fragrances were also derived naturally and were taken from various spices and natural or essential oils which then made skin and hair smell wonderful.

Modern Uses

In today’s world, Phenoxethanol is primarily used as a fixative in the process of making perfumes and insect repellents. It is also a main ingredient in dyes, inks and preservatives. In pharmaceutical industries it is an ingredient in anesthetics and in making some vaccines.

In the cosmetic industry, it is used in the making of a variety of different types of makeup due its ability to properly preserve the cosmetics and aids in adding in fragrances as well. The ability of Phenoxethanol to fight gram negative and gram positive bacteria makes it a promising antibacterial agent too. In personal care products, it is used as a main ingredient in adding fragrance and preserving solutions. It is an active ingredient in skin care products and shampoos. There is a certain limit or restriction when used as an ingredient in making cosmetics and other types of makeup.

Side Effects

Phenoxethanol is noted as a safe ingredient in personal care products. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel classifies this chemical as a safe ingredient in cosmetics in limited amounts.

It is classified by the European Union – Classification and Labeling, as toxic or as an irritant if used on the skin around the mouth and on the lips. It is also classified as an irritant in the workplace by the same governing body.

If you have rather sensitive skin, it is best to consult with a dermatologist first for the most appropriate skin care and hair care product to use. If for any reason you develop symptoms of irritation, inflammation, itching and redness, consult a dermatologist for the appropriate treatment.

Since Phenoxethanol is used in cosmetics, it is best to remove makeup as soon as you can and to never retire or sleep with makeup on. Never apply makeup around the lip area since it may cause irritation and inflammation.

If you work with chemicals, it is best to wear protective clothing such as gloves, mask and goggles to prevent accidental splashes and skin irritation. Since Phenoxethanol is also considered as an irritant in low doses, people who work with this chemical must be protected at all times. Direct contact with Phenoxethanol may also cause eye irritation and breathing problems.

Suggested Products

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Read also: Avena Sativa

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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