Phenethyl Alcohol

What Is It?

Phenethyl Alcohol is a colorless, transparent, slightly viscous liquid. In cosmetics and personal care products, Phenethyl Alcohol is used in the formulation of eye area makeup, makeup products, skin care products, shampoos and perfumes and colognes.

Why Is It Used?

Phenethyl Alcohol prevents or retards bacterial growth, and thus protects cosmetics and personal care products from spoilage. Phenethyl Alcohol also imparts a fragrance to a product.

Scientific Facts

Phenethyl Alcohol occurs naturally in the environment. It is produced by microorganisms, plants, and animals. Phenethyl Alcohol has been found in a number of natural essential oils, in food, spices and tobacco, and in undistilled alcoholic beverages, beers and wines.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes Phenethyl Alcohol on its list of direct food additives. It is permitted for use as a synthetic flavoring substance. The safety of Phenethyl Alcohol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that Phenethyl Alcohol was safe in cosmetics and personal care products at concentrations of up to 1%. In 2006, as part of the scheduled re-evaluation of ingredients, the CIR Expert Panel considered available new data on this ingredient and reaffirmed the above conclusion.

CIR Safety Review: Phenethyl Alcohol was slightly to moderately irritating to the skin and was not a sensitizer. Phenethyl Alcohol, in concentrations of 1% or greater, was irritating to the eyes. Phenethyl Alcohol was neither an irritant nor a sensitizer in human studies. Phenethyl Alcohol was not mutagenic in bacteria or in an Escherichia coli DNA-polymerase-deficient assay system.

Phenethyl Alcohol did inhibit the repair of radiation-induced breaks in the DNA of E. coli. Phenethyl Alcohol did not increase the number of sister chromatid exchanges in human lymphocytes.

Maternal exposure to Phenethyl Alcohol, microencapsulated in the feed, at concentrations of 1000, 3000, and 10,000 ppm had no effect on embryo-fetal loss, or embryo-fetal development. Doses of 0.14, 0.43, and 1.40 ml/kg of Phenethyl Alcohol were applied to the skin and maternal toxicity was marked at the highest dose. Abnormalities in fetuses in the 1.40 ml/kg Phenethyl Alcohol group were observed.

The number of fetuses with moderate degrees of reduced ossification and with cervical rib(s) was significantly greater in the 0.43 ml/kg Phenethyl Alcohol group than in the controls. The incidence of structural changes was slightly greater in 0.14 ml/kg Phenethyl Alcohol-treated group than in the control group. The highest no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) was 0.43 ml/kg/day for cervical rib malformation (developmental effect).

The dermal NOAEL of 0.43 ml/kg/day was used to estimate a safe use level of 1% Phenethyl Alcohol in cosmetics and personal care products.

Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Phenethyl Alcohol…

l Phenethyl Alcohol may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation:…

More Scientific Information

Phenethyl Alcohol is an aromatic alcohol that is metabolized to phenylacetic acid in mammals. In humans, it is excreted in urine as the conjugate, phenylacetylglutamine. In cosmetics and personal care products, Phenethyl Alcohol functions as a fragrance ingredient and as a preservative.


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

Food Ingredients and Packaging:

Food Contact Substances:…

Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS):

Search the Code of Federal Regulations

EU Cosmetics Inventory