Phenoxyethanol is a preservative used in many cosmetics and personal care products. You may have a cabinet full of products containing this ingredient in your home, whether you know it or not.

You’ll find it in a large range of cosmetics and hygiene products, including:

  • perfume
  • foundation
  • blush
  • lipstick
  • soaps
  • hand sanitiser
  • ultrasound gel, and more

It was used in Mommy Bliss brand nipple cream. In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source recalled it as unsafe for breastfeeding infants, due to concerns about how it affects their central nervous system. However, there’s no known significant risk to the mother, or other healthy adults without allergies.

It’s currently allowed in cosmetic products such as skincare up to a maximum of 1%.

Several studies have shown both humans and animals can experience:

  • skin irritation
  • rashes
  • eczema
  • hives

In one study on a human subject, this chemical caused hives and anaphylaxis (a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) in a patient who used topical skin products with the ingredient.

This is one ingredient you’re probably better off avoiding, regardless of whether you experience reactions to it or not. There are many risks and simply far to many ‘better’ alternatives.


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