What Is It?

Butoxyethanol is classified as an organic glycol ether. In cosmetics and personal care products, it is primarily used in hair and nail products.

Why Is It Used?

Butoxyethanol is used primarily to dissolve other substances and to decrease the viscosity of liquid hair dyes and colors.

Scientific Facts

Butyoxyethanol, or 2-butoxyethanol, is an ether alcohol with a sweet odor. In addition to its use in cosmetic and personal care products, Butyoxyethanol is used in a number of industrial and household cleaning products.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits the use of ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (Butoxyethanol) as an indirect food additive as a component of adhesives, in sanitizing solutions, and as a secondary food additive not to exceed 1 ppm for washing or peeling fruits and vegetables. The safety of Butoxyethanol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel.

The CIR Expert Panel reviewed the scientific data and concluded that Butoxyethanol is safe in hair and nail products at concentrations up to 10.0%. In 2002, as part of its regular re-review of cosmetic ingredients, the CIR Expert Panel considered available new data on Butoxyethanol and reaffirmed the above conclusion.

CIR Safety Review: At the expected maximum use concentration of 10%, there was no evidence of skin sensitization reactions to aqueous Butoxyethanol in a repeated insult patch test involving 201 subjects. The CIR Expert Panel concluded that 10% Butoxyethanol is a safe concentration for product formulations intended for rinse-off or leave-on application to human skin.

The CIR Expert Panel noted the severe ocular irritation potential of undiluted Butoxyethanol, but acknowledged that moderate to no corneal injuries were observed at aqueous concentrations of 15 and 5%, respectively, in test preparations. In consideration of these results, the ocular irritation potential of Butoxyethanol is not a concern at the concentrations expected in cosmetic product formulations.

FDA: Links to Code of Federal Regulations for Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (Butoxyethanol)

The use of Butoxyethanol in cosmetic products marketed in Europe is permitted according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation: 

Health Canada permits the use of this ingredient at concentrations equal to or less than 10% in hair dyes and nail products.

More Scientific Information

Butyoxyethanol is used as a solvent as well as a viscosity-decreasing agent in hair dyes and colors to enhance the fluidity of these products. Viscosity decreasing agents are used in cosmetics to enhance the fluidity of products without a significant lowering of the concentration of the functional constituents.

Inorganic salts, organic salts, solvents, and a few selected substances have the ability to lower the viscosity of products. Their efficacy depends on their concentration and is highly specific for each type of product.


Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts118.pdf

Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration

Food Ingredients and Packaging: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/default.htm

Food Contact Substances: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/PackagingFCS/defaul…

Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS): http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/default.htm

Search the Code of Federal Regulations http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm

EU Cosmetics Inventory http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cosmetics/cosing/

The International Programme on Chemical Safety has developed a Concise International Chemical Assessment Document (CICAD) on 2-butoxyethanol. http://www.inchem.org/documents/cicads/cicads/cicad10.htm

Australia’s National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has published a report on 2-butoxyethanol used in cleaning products. http://www.nicnas.gov.au/publications/car/pec/pec6/pec_6_full_report_pdf…