Phenoxyethynol is created by treating phenol with ethylene oxide in an alkaline medium. Each ingredient individually does not sound great, but when they react it creates a safe and effective preservative.
Individually many chemicals may harm you, but together they create a beneficial product. For instance, lye alone is extremely dangerous, but after it reacts with oil and water to create castile soap it is harmless and useful. The MSDS for a pure ingredient can cause undo alarm.
As you consider other ingredients that are widely used and safe in cosmetics you will find that the MSDS sounds alarming for them as well. For instance commonly used ingredients like glycolic acid, lye, citric acid, potassium sorbate and even essential oils have MSDS warnings that could be misunderstood and deemed as too dangerous to use in cosmetics. However, we all know that these ingredients are commonly used and safe in cosmetics. The MSDS sheet is designed to inform the end user of how to handle the ingredient properly in an undiluted form.
Some companies claim that phenoxyethynol is derived from rose oil, sage oil, minerals, plant derivatives and even coconut. But honestly, phenoxyethynol is not even remotely related to these ingredients. It is, however, very safe. It is not pH dependant and not a formaldehyde releasing agent. It is paraben free. It does not react with other ingredients, air or light. It is very stable.According to the CIR Expert Panel it is safe as a cosmetic ingredient as it is currently used. It has been tested on the skin and eyes and it is non-irritating and non-sensitizing at levels of 2.2% or lower. At Essential Wholesale we use phenoxyethynol at 1% or less. You may have seen phenoxyethynol used in cosmetics in conjunction with other preservatives, such as parabens. This is because phenoxyethynol is not a broad spectrum preservative by itself. Through extensive research and testing, we have found success in combining it with another commonly used and completely safe cosmetic ingredient, EDTA.