Free shipping on all domestic orders over $39

FDA warning on phenoxyethanol

mommy's bliss nipple cream
June 4, 2013 Reviewed by Marta 62 Comments

Last week the FDA issued a consumer warning against a nipple cream called Mommy's Bliss. Personally, I thought the name alone was enough to merit banning it. Still, as my husband pointed out, the ingredients that the FDA doesn't like in Mommy's Bliss may turn up in other products as well and so this morning I dug out the FDA's press release. I could hardly believe my eyes. One of the offending ingredients is phenoxyethanol.

Regular visitors to Truth In Aging will know that phenoxyethanol is a very common cosmetic preservative. It seems to be in just about everything I review and I usually point out that it can be a potential irritant. In Europe, many products go out of their way to say they don't contain in. This is what the FDA has to say about it:

"Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that is primarily used in cosmetics and medications. It also can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea".

The second ingredient in Mommy's Bliss is one that I came across only yesterday in Zirh Platinum PM Rescue. It is called chlorphenesin. The FDA says it can depress the central nervous system as well as cause dermatitis.

I know that potion makers are going to write in and tell me that these ingredients are used only in minute and, therefore, safe doses. well, what we'd like to know is exactly what concentrations you are using with independent clinical evidence to back up claims of safety.

For more information on safe skin care read our article on skincare ingredients to avoid and safe alternatives.

sign up for our newsletter

  • October 7, 2018

    by nina

    I make women's intimate skin care products and we removed Phenoxyethanol from our products as soon as the EU banned it. There are other great preservatives on the market, and BTW, parabens get a bad wrap and are actually a good preservative.
    We do not use them either however, as they have become too taboo. Thrilled to know so many people are reading labels and are aware of what we are putting in and on our bodies.

  • October 5, 2018

    by "junk~junkie"

    Well it seem we American's do take it internally, it's in our vaccine's. UNBELIEVABLE !! ONLY IN AMERICA

  • July 17, 2018

    by Emma Pospisil

    The MSDS on phenoxyethanol states that it can cause skin and lung irritation. ... It notes that TOXIC EFFECTS can occur through inhalation, SKIN EXPOSURE, and ingestion. Therefore, I do not understand why it is appearing in practically every skin cream now, replacing parabens. So, it seems the best we can do is trade one poison for another. The FDA needs to do more than provide a warning. This chemical needs to be BANNED FROM BEAUTY PRODUCTS. ..PERIOD!

  • September 7, 2017

    by Marta

    Hi Laurelle, thank you for pointing out that the link to the FDA didn't work. The FDA had indeed updated the link and this article now goes to the new FDA page. The links you mentioned in other articles seem to be working. Perhaps you have a browser issue.

  • September 7, 2017

    by Laurelle

    Where are your citations? I visited your other article about Phenoxyethanol and didn't find that the links worked. That bold green link doesn't work at the top of this page. You cannot quote someone without properly citing where you got the information from.

  • August 24, 2016

    by Lily

    It's pretty obvious that the warning on nipple cream - which is used by breastfeeding moms - is because the ingredient is likely to be ingested on a daily basis by a tiny infant. Daily ingestion by a tiny human weighing less than 30lbs is a much different situation than an adult using it on their skin. Many ingredients that are fine to use on your skin - even 100% natural ones like tea tree oil - can be toxic if you ingest it.

  • March 3, 2016

    by Shelley

    I used a Brauer Arnicaeze,Arnica cream last night in back and legs . I am allergic to,ots of preservatives , had a dreadful night. Full allergic reaction, no rash
    Just heart banging and waves of terror, headache and loose bowels all night. Saw in tiny print that Phenoxyethanol 0.9 percent was in the cream as a preservative. This is a new one to me.

  • February 26, 2016

    by Marta

    Thanks Yevgeny. It appears the FDA had archived the press release. I found it and the link now goes straight to it.

  • February 25, 2016

    by Yevgeny

    The warning against the nipple cream pertains to infants and only if ingested orally. Many ingredients, not just Phenoxyethanol, can cause nausea and diarrhea if swallowed. Even your most common 'healthy' ingredients and natural oils. Phenoxyethanol in skin care (applied onto skin and not swallowed) for adults is a different story and there have not been any direct links to side effects caused by this preservative. Just a thought.

  • February 25, 2016

    by Yevgeny

    Your link to the FDA page is not functioning.

  • October 29, 2015

    by Sylvia

    I have been suffering from a stinging itch for the past year and have finally found out that it is phenoxyethanol that is the problem. I got rid of my face creams, hair conditioner and lots of other stuff. Then I found that my itch was happening after washing dishes. Yes Fairy Washing Liquid(Original) contains it and what was more worrying was it getting ingested. I ask a lot of my family and friends and found most of them do not rinse their dishes. I contacted Proctor and Gamble and they did not see a problem with it. They are selling at the moment at a price of two for one. I am visiting France at the moment and their Fairy Liquid does not contain it!!

  • August 16, 2015

    by Leannan

    Phenoxyethanol is dangerous to animals, especially cats. Phenols [in general] are toxic to cats.

    In the CONCLUSION section of this abstract:
    "The systemic impact of the high absorption rate of PH [phenoxyethanol] and a potential toxicological risk have to be investigated in further studies or should lead to conclusion to avoid PH in disinfectants used for topical treatment of the investigated species.

    So the phenoxyethanol residue left on our hands and skin after using or applying product could be harmful to our pets if they come into contact with it.

  • November 1, 2014

    by Mariluz

    Thank you for your information on this preservative that is taking over after the parabens fell out of grace. It is a no brainer that the cummulative effects of many harmful hidden chemicals at some point can become a big amount in the body and translate into ill effects. Trying to stay away from chemicals have proven to be difficult and many times expensive, but it is possible when it comes to cosmetics as now people are realizing the need to go more natural and eco friendly. Just be diligent and consistent in reading labels and learning what to avoid, and the end it will be worth it!

  • May 20, 2014

    by margareta

    Contact urticaria after using Yves Rocher's Hydratation moisturizing body mist containing phenoxyethanol, I am now eating anti histamin and using cortizon cream to get rid of it and will return the product. just be careful with the phenoxyethanol. Why can they not declare in plain English what all these chemical products means? so you can avoid all the problems.

  • November 11, 2013

    by Judy

    The residue of the dangerous chemicals used to make the actual ingredient during the manufacturing process is the problem for some otherwise good ingredients. Responsible purchasers can demand that the residue has been removed but it would be great if the governments would make it illegal to sell these raw ingredients unless there is NO residue.

  • September 11, 2013

    by john

    Can you get this into perspective this is based on it as a raw material data i.e. on its own... not blending at such diluted rates of the likes of 1% where it’s there to stop the products growing bacteria and in turn killing you .

    Will you stop washing your dishes because it contains a bacteria inhibitor or be happy in a restaurant which does not clean down the utensils or areas where food has been made, of course not.

    This is about controlling bacteria which are harmful but at levels which are safe.
    It’s used in fish tanks to kill bacteria yet the fish live , you would not fill the tank up with it because it would kill the fish but at low levels its does the job of stopping the bacteria killing the fish .

    And before you go off thinking organic means none that’s not the case, by law all products must have some form of preservative otherwise there illegal, organic or otherwise. You can get products which don’t grow bacteria ie; oils or without water in them which are a very limited range.

    but watch sometime the raw materials are preserved first which can hide the real formulations

  • May 3, 2013

    by robin courier

    i just read all of these comments and phew - don't you all have anything better to do? most people don't have skin that is so sensitive. those who do should be careful of what they put on it. natural/unnatural? who cares!

  • February 28, 2013

    by nightofstars

    Phenoxyethanol is also a xenoestrogen that can make you sick. Your estrogen receptors read it as dosing of bad estrogen so your body responds as though it has received bad estrogen in excess, which is a carcinogenic cycle women are at risk for. It has the same bad effect as drinking out of #1 hardness plastic bottles, using parabens, or using styrophone for heating foods. I react to #1 hardness plastic bottles with hurting ovaries. You can learn your bodies real responses by cleansing it in prolonged healthy fasts (I use Johanna Brandt's The Grape Cure when I can get the self-discipline in order). Watch your responses after cleanses to plastic bottled drinks, certain products with known xenoestrogens, there is fact behind this information.

  • January 27, 2013

    by Annette Dudley

    Unfortunately, this item caused an allergic reaction on my eyes. After using it a couple of different times (resting in-between to see if it was the product), my eyes were swollen, itchy and red. I have narrowed it to down to the phenoxyethanol. I have contact allergies./atopic dermatitis so I am very conscientious of ingrediants in products. The most offending for me also inlcude parabens and propylene glycol. Even if a product states that its "hypoallergenic" or "natural," it is important to be familiar with ingredients especially if you have sensitive skin.

  • January 20, 2013

    by john

    I have a question for Gabriel a couple posts above. I agree with much of your list. Phenoxyethanol and especially ethylhexyglycerin are bad news as they can irritate the skin. I am really puzzled as to why you have sodium pca on the list. Na-PCA is an awesome ingredient and is the primary natural moisturizer in human skin. I've been using this for almost 30 years in a spray sold by TwinLab and it is wonderful. People say I look 10 years younger. But anyway, unfortunately Twinlab recently changed their formula and added in the phenoxyethanol and the ethylhexylglycerine and now the product irritates my skin and I can no longer use it unless I can find an older bottle. The older formular was self-preserved as they used to put monolaurin in it. Shame on TwinLab for ruining a great product. BTW, did you think Na-PCA was a chemical preservative?

  • December 27, 2012

    by Bettina

    Hi! I have seen Breast Cancer ruin two of my beloved ones' life quality. It doesn't help a lot when your breasts are gone, that you used to be beautiful with shiny makeup. This Ingredient does not cause cancer, but a lot of others do. I am shocked to read all these comments and wonder; If a celebrity was advertizing for quick-silver as anti-age, would you smear it all over you? It is ok to let people make their own choices, but if noone yelled about this serious issue, you wouldn't even know you had a choice, now would you? Another thing, caring and sharing author, and God Bless you for doing so! - Rules and regulations in Europe are more strict than in USA.
    If a european product contains dangerous chemicals, it won't be certified organic, no matter what manufactorer try to call it. It is tested, you know. And not compared with food, as in the US. Because there are parabens in some berries, natural parabens some call it. Why you safely can eat them, but not add them to your skin: Your skin absorbs anything you add to it, down to your veins, and all around our body, it is transported, It doesn't have our digestive system to break anything down. It just takes it in. In our second layer of skin, is our veines. The only question now is: Which Ingredients do you want transported around your organism? Cancer-causing chemicals, or nutrition?
    feel free to hate me here:

    I wish you all, respectfully, a great new year.
    Happy thinking

  • December 23, 2012

    by gabriel

    I understand that many of you in the cosmetics industry have to be concerned with shelf-life and are upset that the truth is spelled out here.
    However, I appreciate knowing about all the chemicals that I want to avoid.
    It is becoming increasingly hard to find cosmetics and I an on the verge of making my own. I will order fresh ingredients direct from manufactorers who are willing to guarantie that none of the following ingredients are included:
    * Polysorbate-20
    * Propelene glycol
    * Sodium PCA
    * SD alcohol-38B
    * phenoxyethanol
    * ethylhexylglycerin
    and a lot more - all carry at least a small amout of danger
    Thanks for your service

  • November 8, 2012

    by Virginia

    I make my own soaps and lotions as well and although I'd prefer to use all natural preservative systems all the time there are a couple of products wherein I do use phenoxyethanol. As much as I hate to have to do it, the foaming sugar scrub that I make is designed to be used in the shower. It's too thick to put into a pump so therefore there is a good possibility that there will be inadvertent water contamination. I make these scrubs in small jars 2 or 4 oz so they (hopefully) get used up in a timely manner. I'm just not confident that a completely natural preservative would do the trick.. However, in my hard balm which has no water content I use only Vitamin E. The good news though, the scrub isn't designed for daily use.

    I feel that there is a fine line with preservatives. If it is at all possible to use a natural preservative system for a certain application, by all means. But, if there is a significant possibility that a product will be coming into contact with a contaminant, then a broad spectrum preservative is the method of choice.
    We, as consumers, should understand that it's up to us to know to what degree we are exposing ourselves and try to make informed decisions when we make our purchases.

  • October 16, 2012

    by Jonni

    I was making a natural face cream (hyaluronic acid, bee pollen, honey and grapeseed oil) when I found a great bottle of Aloe Vera Herbal Blend by Nature's Life. I WAS going to mix it with my gel but was reading the ingredients and saw that it has phenoxyethanol. What a bummer. The bottle had on the front: 98% pure, paraben-free with chamomile and comfrey. Made me feel good until (after I bought it) I saw what it really contained. Thanks for the forum.

  • October 14, 2012

    by HealthyBoomer

    I also agree with both Think Harder and Susan S. as I was thinking the same thing while reading all of these comments. The average American woman uses anywhere from 6 - 11 products daily on her skin - cleansers, toners, moisturizers, make-up, etc. If each one has the small little 1% that's allowed, or even if only 6 of the 11 have 1%, that's still 6 times the legal limit. I have been researching natural products for skin care for over a year now for a book that I'm writing and what I have found is that yes, there are many "natural" products - even some that have the word "organic" in front of their name which indeed have potentially harmful ingredients as preservatives or oil removers. What a wise consumer needs these days is to go to each company's web site and find or ask for the complete list of ingredients of any product that may be put onto our skin. The skin absorbs these products into the bloodstream so it behooves us to read ALL labels and do our own research if we do not want either contamination from bacteria, or harmful chemicals.

  • March 29, 2012

    by hazel

    After reading this blog I must say that I was smiling a lot.I am a mom and I make all my body products for my family.I make soap lotions etc.I just want to say that it is very important to put preservatives in your products.You dont want to have bacteria all over your body and be wise people please dont go selling products to people if you dont do your research and know what you are doing. There are some natural preservatives that you can use in your products such as ground cinnamon,glove, vitamin E, rosemary essential oil. grape seed extract, ground sage, Citric acid.I have used those preservatives and I have never had my lotions go bad.when making lotions an important factor is to reduce oxidation and bacteria growth.Bacteria need a certain condition to start growing with a combination of those preservative it slow down the bacteria growth.
    And bear in mind that if you want something natural it will not last as long as the commercial an all natural lotions should last at least 3 months for the most.the purpose of natural products is to gain the benefits of the natural ingredients and as we know they will only last for a short period of time due to oxidation.
    I want to comment about citric acid. I have used it in my creams as a preservative and I notice that it allows my creams to stay fresh.Take a look at some foods that we eat, they have citric acid eg, sodas,canned foods,meats etc.Its in a large quantity of our foods.So therefore why don't you try it.I am very sceptical about what I put on my family skin. Why?.My son had suffered from terrible excema I tried every thing and spend lots of money on medications and ointments finally I developed my own products and my son no longer has excema therefore I am very careful about certain products.I research everything and if I don't feel something is right I don't use it.
    Clear and simple!
    The bottom line to all this is do a lot of research.......

  • March 28, 2012

    by jed

    Wow steve that was the pot calling the kettle black. What an ignorant rant! If you read more of Martas post you would see what else she has to say on the topic of Parabens. If you're going to have that reaction, why read her posts in the first lace?

  • March 28, 2012

    by y2k

    I think everyone needs a good dose of skepticism, both about preservatives and natural claims. Not all chemicals are bad and not everything natural actually is, or is safe for that matter. We should be careful about what chemicals we use, but sometimes they are better than natural alternatives. Besides, if natural means safe, then phenoxyethanol is safe: “Phenoxyethanol is usually synthesized for commercial use but it can also be found naturally in products such as green tea.” ( . Too much of even natural things can also be harmful, this includes vitamins essential oils, etc, so we need to apply common sense.

    Also in regards to the consumption from multiple sources argument, this is not a problem in this situation. The EU and CIR set their safe level below 1% of a product’s formula, but this does not mean at 1.1% in a product would be harmful. In fact, they take consumption of multiple sources into account and set their levels accordingly, so that a consumer would never accidentally go over the true safe level. The people conducting this research and providing these recommendations are not trying to increase traffic on their blog or increase sales of their product, they are out to help people and are scientists, so they actually know what they are talking about.

    As for removing water and thus eliminating the need for a preservative, that is 100% false. It may reduce their growth, but they can exist just fine without water, so you better move on to the next snake oil when you hear that claim.

  • March 22, 2012

    by Susan S.

    Think Harder,
    I have to agree with you when you touched on the very thing I was thinking in response to all these people who are saying "Oh, but it's only a very, very small amount. That small of an amount can't harm you" So let's say I wake up in the morning and hop in my shower and my shower gel has phenoxyethanol in it. So does the shampoo I'm using. And the conditioner that I leave on my hair for 3 or 4 minutes. And my facial scrub. And then I get out of the shower and my body moisturizer has it in there, and my deodorant, my contact lens solution, my toothpaste, my mouthwash, my face cream, my eye cream, and my hairstyling product.

    And it's in my foundation, my blush, my concealer, my eyeliner and my mascara ... and my lipgloss, which, yes, I do lick my lips sometimes. And it's in the handsoap I wash my hands with at work. And I get home and it's in the dishsoap I use to wash my dishes. And I take off my eye make-up and it's in that remover, and my facial cleanser, and toner, and anti-aging serum and the night cream I put over that, and my eye cream. And my toothpaste and mouthwash again. And the hand cream I rub in before I go to bed. And I do this day in and day out, day after day, year after year.

    Can you really, absolutely, positively say I've only absorbed an infinitesimal, harmless amount of phenoxyethanol? And if 10 years down the road after all this continual exposure I get MS or even cancer, can you absolutely, positively say that this "central nervous system depressor" and "cellular irritant" "only when in large doses" ingredient had absolutely nothing to do with that? Can you guarantee that? If it's so completely harmless why are cancer survivors steered by their doctors to personal care products that don't contain these ingredients? I mean, if they're completely harmless it wouldn't matter, right? Right?

    Personally, I'm glad Marta brings these things up, if only to make us stop and think about what we're subjecting our bodies to, and to maybe think about trying to find ways to minimize a risk that, while maybe not proven, has to my mind, also not been disproven.

  • March 20, 2012

    by Think Harder

    My first thought is what would be so wrong with having a cosmetic product that DID just last one or two months? I'd buy it if it meant that I didn't have to slowly poison myself over the course of my lifetime (just to have the "luxury" of a product that lasts an entire year without growing dangerous bacteria/fungi etc).

    I've done a lot of research on the toxic and/or dangerous materials contained in consumer products and in doing so you find that each separate industry allows 1% of this or 5% of that, saying each individual product is healthy for consumers when realistically consumers use/come in contact with hundreds of products. Of course using a face cream that contains just 1% of a "potentially unhealthy" substance (like Phenoxyethenol) might not ultimately be life threatening. However, add up each "percentage" of potentially dangerous ingredients contained in cosmetics, clothes, food, cookware, bedding, furniture, carpeting, building materials, paper products (yes, sometimes even PAPER), automobile interiors, PLUS individual sun exposure/air & water quality and the resulting risks are substantially higher. (Specifically, I'm referring to severe risks such as cancer/damage to the central nervous system/stroke/brain damage, cardiovascular/respiratory problems, and related degenerative diseases)

    According to 2012 national cancer data reports*: between 2006 and 2008 the probability for people to develop invasive cancer in their lifetime was 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women... These numbers are telling us that SOMETHING is severely wrong! While it can be hard to directly link illness (such as cancer) to the many potential causes in our environment, why run the risk rather than make sensible attempts to lower our risks? It's less about fear and more about making smart choices.

    I would encourage everyone to cut toxic/unhealthy products out of their lives wherever possible. For example, if you can't find the perfect solution in a toxin-free shampoo, try cutting down risks in other areas like replacing lotion with pure vitamin E oil or olive oil. Try replacing non-stick cookware with ceramic/glass/stainless steel materials. Eat organic foods. And like everyone is saying, do your own research and find products that don't contain the chemicals you want to avoid. I personally try to avoid Parabens, BPA, Formaldehyde, DBP (phthalates), Monosodium Glutamate (used in food, and vaccines), High Fructose Corn syrup, and Canola oil among others (I still need to further research phenoxyethanol). Yes, some products are safer for external use but I still would not smear gasoline on my face everyday just because it's more harmful if ingested than if it touches your skin. Skin absorbs. Therefore, I try to use homemade remedies because I can trust that if it's safe to eat it is safe to absorb through my skin. Using a homemade honey mask is far less work than reading every label in the skin care isle.

    If it interests you, Whole Foods has launched a new quality standards program involving a list of 250 ingredients they do not approve for cosmetic products:

    Also, please never use nail polish on children. It contains many HIGHLY TOXIC ingredients especially for developing children. There are LESS-toxic (none are really toxic free) options.

    *Source: Siegel, R., Naishadham, D. and Jemal, A. (2012), Cancer statistics, 2012. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 62: 10–29. doi: 10.3322/caac.20138
    (Statistics mentioned are through 2008 because that is the most current data available)

    Cheers to health and learning!

  • December 22, 2011

    by GooGoo

    Phenoxyethanol scores a 3-4 hazard on cosmetics database website. So don't throw out all your products yet. The benefits of a preservative far outweigh having products that would go rancid without them. I make a lotion with pheno. It is less than 1% of the total formulation. People love to cause fear over the little things in life.

  • November 11, 2011

    by Chris

    OMG, Irene! It must be the dreaded phenoxyethanol that has done this to you! Wow, you found this article online, and now you are an expert! Seriously, though, if you had a bad reaction to something, go to a doctor and find out why. I promise it's not from the phenoxyethanol, and it would probably be a good idea to find out exactly what happened to you. Unless you diagnose all of your illnesses on your own.

    It's truly astonishing what people choose to believe from uneducated sources. Reading articels on Google in not properly educating yourself. The 8 years I spent in school getting degrees in chemistry and anatomy make me a better resource than somone with a website and a lot of time on their hands. Funny how they tell you what's wrong with the cosmetics of the world, and then offer plenty of things you can spend money on here. Are people really so blind to sales tactics that they'll trust people like this who really have no business giving advice?

  • September 24, 2011

    by Dicci Brignoni

    I just stumbled on this as I research what to do about the high toxic paraben levels just found in my body. I use to think it was no big deal to have these preservatives in my products, until now that I am very sick and suffering from a list long list of aliments. When you're young and healthy you think nothing of it, but when you're older and sick you realize were you went wrong, especially when you have the scientific test to prove how harmful these items are to the body in the long run.

  • August 12, 2011

    by irene kay

    RE: phenoxyethanol

    i just purchased oil for my hair and it contains phenoxyethanol. i have gotten dermatitis all over both of my hands, red, itchy, swollen, sore. terrible. i will never ever use anything this this stuff in it ever again. i warn others. please be very careful and do not use this.

    irene kay -phila. pa.

  • July 29, 2011

    by Kim from Olean

    I agree with Dr X on many points... Lets see the scientific data justifying ANY all natural preservative system as EFFECTIVE broad spectrum bacterial, yeast and mold inhibitors... Something that will provide a shelf life of more than 1-3 months, AND isnt made up of pure oil... Lets say a body lotion? Oh... and it has to actually feel like a good quality product, not an oily mess.

    While I truly dream that some mad scientist out there will discover an amazing preservative system that is "all-natural", the reality is that you are taking greater risk of exposing yourself or your customer to harmful (sometimes deadly) bacteria, yeasts and mold by counting on "all-natural" preservatives alone... And i do challenge anyone to provide clinical data proving a water-based lotion can be effectively preserved for greater than 3-months by mother nature.

  • June 27, 2011

    by Darrell

    Hi Jennifer,
    Don't completely knock water -- it's also basically a solvent that's necessary in many products (as it makes active ingredients available and functional to the skin).

    Most products that don't include water in their formulas also don't have any water soluble active ingredients. This isn't a bad thing, but it just means that water-free products are significantly limited to the range of active ingredients in which they can effectively contain.

    Very true though about reduced preservative use in water-free products. Generally water-free products require less, or often, no preservatives to maintain freshness and product safety. So, for someone who it's important to, to limit or reduce the amount of preservatives they come into contact with, looking to water-free products is a great starting point.

    So, perhaps to some water is our frienemy...but it's in important ingredient and shouldn't just be regarded as a filler.


  • June 27, 2011

    by Jennifer

    This is why I make my own cosmetics: soap, body butter, eyeshadow, lipstick, foundation, deodorant... Everything I make is oil and mineral-based, with no water-based ingredients, so there's no need for preservatives. My stuff has a 6-12 month shelf-life given that that's the shortest shelf-life of the ingredients I usually use. I don't need it to last for years. As long as moisture isn't introduced to the containers, it's all good.

    Water is basically a filler in commercial products to make it cheaper for them to make, you have to use more of the product to get the benefits, and it evaporates instead of soaking in to your skin. Water is what makes preservatives necessary because it is a breeding ground for bacteria. If you shop for products that don't contain water or water-based ingredients, you likely won't find chemical preservatives because they're not necessary.

  • December 31, 2010

    by Ms Kit

    Yes the tone of the original post is very arrogant, with an ending statement assuring that the writer is not willing to listen to reason.

    May people these days are demanding preservative-free or "all natural" preservatives. One must assume they prefer gram-positive and/or gram-negative bacteria, as well as fungi, yeasts, and molds swimming around in their personal care products.

    Here's a link to take a look at, showing the results of a cream purchased from a big-name Northwestern spa, a cream "preserved" with "natural" substances. Take a look, would YOU want to rub this cream on YOUR face?

  • November 29, 2010

    by Luke

    GOOD FOR YOU FOR WRITING THIS ARTCLE!!! I am getting rid of my avalon orgnaics coq10 lotion and calling them and tellign them NO PHENOXYETHANOL fo rme, they ahve other prodcuts that don't have it in it.

  • October 13, 2010

    by Botanist

    Three cheers for DeeDee!!! Useful information can be found everywhere but it is almost always contaminated with misinformation. Be careful when google searching, and be particularly wary of wikipedia because many "solid" facts on the web will be accompanied by at lease a little misinformation. You have to actually research something to get a well rounded view of an issue, instead of just trusting one website. Check out the article “Preservatives Under Fire: ).” CIR panel actually bases their facts on real scientific studies, but it's true that even they have some bias. Check out the, they will give you the info on all CIR studies, past and present (the one for phenoxyethanol: ). Also check out some other websites that are like the one you’re at now and you’ll find that there are varying opinions:

    Most importantly, don’t rely on out of context quotes from secondary sources. Check out the government websites for yourself like There you'll find information on ingredient testing and on product testing. There is a place there to report complaints (like allergic reactions) about individual products. You will also see that the studies that show that phenoxyethanol "can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea” were done by injecting large doses of pure phenoxyethanol directly into lab animals. This information tells me that as long as I do not inject pure raw ingredients into my skin, I should be okay. I know I don't have to worry about there being above a high concentration of phenoxyethanol in my products because I know about the crazy FDA testing that products go through. I also know that the FDA rather be safe than sorry, and they are almost too overprotective.

  • June 29, 2010

    by RichW

    DeeDee, I stumbled upon this site by accident and your comment was frustrating because you did not list the "reliable resources" that are available. For people like me who want to know the truth about a product's ingredients without all the alarmist mumbo jumbo, it would have been nice if you had listed some references.

  • May 26, 2010

    by DeeDee

    Thanks for the clarification Marta. I guess what I'm ultimately trying to say here, is that we cannot rely on miscellaneous blogs or, more importantly, brand-specific websites and marketing when it comes to figuring out what is and isn't good for our health. There are many more reliable sources.

  • May 26, 2010

    by marta

    Hi DeeDee

    Thank you for your comment. One point of clarification. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review is not exactly independent or "unbiased". It is funded by the industry body, the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (now called the Personal Care Products Council). The Environmental Working Group described it as "the largely self-policing safety review board of the cosmetics industry."

  • May 26, 2010

    by DeeDee

    I find it interesting that the subject of preservatives in cosmetics can bring about such intense reactions from many. I have been researching phenoxyethanol and so far cannot find anything to substantiate the hype surrounding its 'extreme danger' when used as approved (ie. very low %) in products that are to be topically applied.

    Real facts and data are what speak to me. Amy, you suggested to do the research by typing phenoxyethanol on Google, and you'll find the truth - and, we should definitely check out the Miessence page. Seriously?...Seriously? Ever considered that maybe, just maybe they're trying to strengthen their own market by creating a scary differentiator between them and other natural skin care producers? Wait. Are you a Miessence consultant?

    I say, do the research by ALL means, but look for REAL factual data and conclusions as to the safety of the topical use of an ingredient in approved concentrations - from unbiased sources! The Cosmetics Ingredient Review group is a great start, or any unbiased research group willing to provide substantiated proof as to their conclusions.

    Unfortunately, scare tactics seem to be the way with so many natural beauty manufacturers these days. After all, it is an extremely competitive, highly profitable and unregulated market, and many manufacturers find it difficult to find their differentiating edge. Too bad the 'edge' is often to use your marketing money to put down as many other competing brands as possible by creating an element of extreme fear around a few of the ingredients they use.

    Did you know that many 'all natural' skin care products contain hidden ingredients? Believe me, they do - we checked. So, wouldn't you rather buy a product that discloses ALL of their ingredients, even if some of them are not popular on blogs and websites, than to risk buying a product that doesn't seem to have any preservative, but has a bunch of hidden ingredients? At least with the former you know what you are getting...

    Would you believe me if I told you that some products that have been preserved using 'natural preservative systems' are actually at extreme risk for, or in fact contaminated with, bacteria, mold and/or fungi?

    And would you rather believe unsubstantiated hype you read on the internet and avoid all preservatives at any cost, than refer to real hard proof from unbiased resources? If the answer is yes, then know that you are exposing yourself to either hidden ingredient list lies (I'm not even going to START about the parabens in Japanese Honeysuckle Extract argument), or risk of putting contaminated products on your skin (which themselves can cause serious illness - even blindness!).

    I just wish natural cosmetics producers and marketers would stop raising unsubstantiated untruths around ingredients that responsible manufacturers cannot avoid using, and report REAL research and data, with strong references to substantiate their conclusions!

    Just because ingredients are not strictly natural (and so few are) it doesn't mean they are not useful, helpful or, more importantly, NECESSARY.

  • December 8, 2009

    by PrettyLady

    Thank You for the info.I find it very odd that people would get upset when given information, and insight on something that could potentially be harmful.Dr. X, I have a chair in the corner for you because you need a time out.These are the same Doctors who use people like Lab Rats the moment a pharmaceutical company gives them free mugs and purple pens, only to push their drugs on unsuspecting patients so they can document the side effects that your sure to have.
    People are finding the truth in aging and you as a Dr?? in the medical community, are not a happy campers. :-)

  • July 18, 2009

    by Microbes kill and injure

    Phenoxyethanol is restricted in the US as well. And, paraben is found in nature (methyl paraben is in blueberries, and ALL the doctors, scientists, and marketing agents tell us to eat blueberries). But, snake venom and bacteria and yeast and mold are also found in nature, so apparently not everything that is natural is good for you.

    My primary concern with phenoxyethanol is the chance that during the ethoxylation process (as phenoxyethanol is made by reacting phenol with ethylene oxide), the phenoxyethanol may become contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. I think I'm going to start using products with parabens again as I'm starting to truly believe all the fear associated with parabens is just hype.

    I'm very anxious to hear the ingredients in this "natural" preservative system though.

  • July 11, 2009

    by Amy

    If all of you would google phenoxyenthanol you will see it is totally bad for you. Do your own research. don't take one persons word for it. Go on Miessence certified organic products It will give you a list of side effects. Even if it is less than 1% in a product just think of the long term use plus other products that you use daily. it adds up and you absorb it into your skin. Doesn't matter if its hair products, facial and body lotions. Get this even in vaccines. So it all adds up. Mr. Aubrey with Aubrey Organics once said, (of this ingredient) " Instead of Quick KILL - Sloooow Kill" In Japan and European Union This ingredient is restricted.

  • May 30, 2009

    by Laven

    I absolutely concur with Tam; we need solid information, not biased opinions. I don't care who is wrong or right about preservatives. I can't bring myself to give a damn if you think a person is arrogant and ignorant for stating his or her opinion because like I said we need proof of what you're saying. I need cold, hard facts about this serious topic; I don't want to be running around in circles. If you have nothing useful to say, please take your battles somewhere else. It's not fair for you to waste my time with your petty fights and clearly it's rude for you to burden me with your open hostility and insulting attitude. I came here merely to get educated. I believe it's safe to say that many of us have had similar thoughts in mind. Is peace and a decorum so difficult to ask for?

  • May 15, 2009

    by Paul Lyndon

    When posting - remember the first rule of journalism is truth followed by context. Yes the FDA issued a warning about phenoxyethanol but it was to prevent infants from eating it. It wasn't a warning to avoid it in a skin care product. It is a harmless preservative - unless you eat it. Gasoline is harmful if you eat it too - but it's fine if you spill it on your skin. Thanks for the opportunity to comment on your material. Keep blogging!

  • May 14, 2009

    by Harlow

    Get real people she is telling you what has been reported and proven, in most cases, to be harmful ! You dont like it - read another article. Leave this lady alone ~ She is providing a fabulous service for us and you are being complete morons. I for one, thank her immensely for any and all info she painstakingly researches and provides. She is a life-saver - Keep up the GREAT WORK !

  • May 3, 2009

    by Lynn

    Dr. X,

    You said your comment as if it's virtually impossible to put something out there that is truly healthy for people without adding in additives. I beg to differ. What do they teach at the school you went to? That only things made and "manufactured" in a cold, sterile lab are what's good for the people? You are sadly in the dark about what is necessary to make good product. Of COURSE there are things out there that are really natural that can be manufactured for the masses. Large corp. would rather a large preservative filled bottom line than produce things that have a shorter shelf life and are still viable. DR.

    My best, Lynn

  • April 24, 2009

    by melanieb

    and i firmly believe If you spend the day in the hot blistering sun then YES! use a sun screen. But if your just out and about then a good moistrizer with makeup will block the sun pretty nicley. Parkii- (shea butter) (every single skin cream in the world uses to different types of extracted shea butter in their creams.) is a natural sunblocker. So no you do not need all the Hype. sunglasses are the best.

  • April 24, 2009

    by melanie

    the only thing i can say is if you use a cold cream longer then a year then you must use it only a couple times a year. What would be the point? Skin needs consistancy to see results. as for a real natural product it can only last a couple of months left in the fridge. A pump should be used so you wont have to dip your fingers. besides that you should always wash your hands before washing your face. I use tretinoin 1% and i am looking for a gentle soothing moisturizing skin care set and i can never find thats in perfect balance in conjuction with tretinoin. IS THERE ONE? DO THEY EVEN EXIST? I tried it all ladies. 29. been a skin care lover since the age of 18.

  • April 12, 2009

    by Don

    Well this preservative may or may not have harmful effects but it has been proven that this compound is much better in the delivery system to get the active ingredients deeper into the skin and cells. Products without it will work but not nearly as good. People have been brushing their teeth with this preservative for years. If people are willing to get less results with out it so be it but active ingredients work much better with it in the delivery system.

  • March 14, 2009

    by KB

    Quoting you on the FDA press release re mommys bliss nipple cream... you left out a very important point which was that This cream when used by mothers when NURSING can cause the following in INFANTS if INGESTED...

    Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that is primarily used in cosmetics and medications. It also can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration in infants.

  • February 16, 2009

    by Tasha

    I was wondering about anyone's thoughts on sodium benzoate in baby wipes versus the "hiddeous" phenoxyethanol. If you HAVE TO choose one or the other, which would you choose?

    Just as a side note, I appreciate both sides to the argument of synthetic preservatives. I have had long conversations with naturalists and also chemists in manufacturing world. I do think that if you want a TOTALLY naturally product, you should make it yourself. I also think the mosre hideous synthetic preservatives that ultimately not only entering our blood stream, but seep into the environment by way of landfills and septic systems etc., should be banned. Perhaps phenoxyethanol should be one of these?
    Thank you and looking forward to everyone's opinion on phenoxyethanol versus sodium benzoate. Thank you kindly!

  • January 30, 2009

    by Tam

    I don't understand the big deal. If you don't like preservatives-don't use them. If you can live with them-by all means do. Yelling doesn't get you anywhere.
    I believe in natural products, however, there is a line that should not be crossed, I feel that you have crossed it. the public needs to be educated not chastised.
    If you think a product has a preservative, don't use it. There are MANY products that work better than any preservative laden product. I have a nagging mom, I need an informative friend.

  • January 21, 2009

    by Dr. X

    I'm curious, how many products have you manufactured over the years? Can you provide any shelf life studies using your "all NATURAL" preservative system? I'm in the manufacturing industry and what’s amazing to me is how many manufacturers put things such as phenoxyethanol in their products and don't disclose it. They do this to keep the naturalist happy. Maybe you can list your "all natural" preservative system. I'm sure I can google each ingredient and find something bad about it.

  • January 21, 2009

    by Brian Petford

    I have fair skin that has been damaged over the years and have for several years used an Australian product Sun Sense SPF 30+ which used as a preservative: hydroxybenzoates and diazolidinylurea. However the last 500ML container I purchased seemed very different and I did not like it at all. It was much thicker and made my skin go white. On closer inspection I see on the front label " New Formula " on the label at the back the formula does seem very different from the label on my old containe. I also noticed that the preservatives are now: hydroxybenzoates and phenoxyethanol !!!! and this is the new formula. Your comments please.

  • January 16, 2009

    by Joan Bridget

    Sussana: you're right, I was a actually rude in my reply. I think Marta's arrogant tone ("Well let me save you the trouble. If you don’t tell us exactly what concentrations you are using with independent clinical evidence to back up claims of safety, then I really don’t give a damn") just really grated me!

  • January 12, 2009

    by susanna

    There are natural ways to preserve w/out the use of phenoxyethanol, or parabens.

    Natural preservatives DO inhibit the growth of microbes, just like pheno or parabens would do.

    Water is what makes a wonderful environment for microbes to products w/out water are ideal for using natural preservatives. I think you need to learn a little more about the world of natural, before bashing the author of this article. Synthetics are NOT needed.

  • January 10, 2009

    by Joan Bridget

    You come across as very arrogant. And I can see that you seem to dislike any and all preservatives. Clearly, you'd rather scare consumers into having microbes grow in their cosmetic formulations than actually rely on good science. Preservatives are necessary! Stop the fear-mongering.. and try humble yourself

Join the discussion! Leave a comment below.

My Comment

Add a comment...

-or- Cancel Comment
* Required Fields
truth in aging's five best

Truth In Aging's Five Best

The very best to choose from for your skin concerns.

Read More

truth in aging videos

Truth In Aging Videos

Helpful how-tos and reviews from Marta and friends.

Watch Now

meet our contributors

Meet Our Contributors

The TIA community consists of our trusted reviewers.

Meet Them

be inspired

Be Inspired

Inspiring thoughts and women who are aging gracefully.

Read More