• Preservative
INCI Phenoxyethanol
  • Natural globally approved preservative used to limit bacterial growth
  • Typically used in combination with other preservatives to bolster its effectiveness against bacteria, yeast and mold
  • The main component in many natural preservatives (e.g. Optiphen, Saliguard)
  • Best in anhydrous products
  • Not heat sensitive
  • Paraben Free and Formaldehyde free
Type Naturally Derived
Kind Preservative
Also Called
  • Iscaguard PE
Formulation Stage Cool down phase
Form Clear, colourless to pale yellow liquid
Scent Mild, characteristic odour
Solubility Soluble in oil, alcohol, glycerin and glycol. Slightly soluble in water

What is Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is an ether alcohol that is a popular natural preservative primarily used to combat bacterial growth in cosmetic products. It is typically found in preservative blends or used in conjunction with other ingredients to offer broad-spectrum protection against bacteria, mold and yeast. Phenoxyethanol can withstand relatively high temperatures up to 85C, due to this it can be added both pre and post emulsification, but is generally recommended to use after emulsification. Phenoxyethanol is both formaldehyde-free, paraben-free and vegan, and can be used in natural cosmetics.

The problem with Phenoxyethanol preservative

Phenoxyethanol is a common preservative found in cosmetic products, typically used in natural products as an alternative to synthetic preservatives that use formaldehyde and parabens. However, recently phenoxyethanol has come under fire for having potentially serious side effects when used in higher concentrations. Reported issues with the preservative can range from allergic reactions, irritating eczema, and potentially harmful when ingested by infants. When phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative, the concentration is low enough (below 1%), to be considered safe. In fact, phenoxyethanol is often combined with other preservatives and makes up the base of several other natural cosmetics, including Optiphen, Optiphen Plus, Saliguard PCG and Phenoxyethanol EHG. It’s worth noting that phenoxyethanol is still a widespread preservative in the cosmetics industry and is approved by several entities for use in products. However, for those who have an allergic reaction or sensitivity to this ingredient, it may be an ingredient that you wish to avoid. It is a continued challenge to find natural preservatives that provide effective broad-spectrum protection against bacteria, yeast and mold.