Phenoxyethanol is a widely used synthetic preservative with global approval for use in rinse-off or leave-on cosmetic products in concentrations up to 1%. It is often used in even lower amounts, especially when combined with other preservatives.
Phenoxyethanol is incredibly versatile because it works in a wide variety of formulas and pH ranges and offers broad-spectrum activity against many pathogens. It is both water and oil soluble and is compatible with many other preservatives used in cosmetics. Research shows that compared to many other preservatives, the occurrence of a sensitized or allergic reaction to phenoxyethanol used as used in cosmetics is rare. But the truth is that all preservatives, even the natural ones, carry some risk of sensitizing the skin, because preservatives of any kind are intended to kill fungi, bacteria and mold, and this can have a negative effect on the skin.