New Zealand Phenoxyethanol Industry: Phenoxyethanol Gains Traction in New Zealand's Cosmetics Industry A Closer Loo

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Phenoxyethanol is an organic compound that is widely used as a preservative in cosmetic and personal care products

Production and use of Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is an organic compound that is widely used as a preservative in cosmetic and personal care products. In New Zealand, it is one of the most commonly used preservatives in the cosmetics industry due to its effectiveness and relatively low cost. Several cosmetics manufacturers in New Zealand produce Phenoxyethanol domestically for use in their products.

Nuplex Industries, located in Auckland, is one of the largest producers and suppliers of  New Zealand Phenoxyethanol in the country. Their manufacturing facility produces over 50 metric tons of Phenoxyethanol per year through a chemical synthesis process. Most of their annual production is used as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care items manufactured in New Zealand, such as lotions, shampoos, and liquid soaps. However, they also export a portion of their Phenoxyethanol to international markets.

Regulations around New Zealand Phenoxyethanol Industry


The use of Phenoxyethanol as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products is regulated by the Food Standards Authority in New Zealand. The legal limit for the concentration of Phenoxyethanol allowed in leave-on products like lotions is 1%, while the limit for rinse-off products like shampoos is up to 5%. Cosmetics companies must ensure the level of Phenoxyethanol in their formulations does not exceed these limits.

The FSA also requires that Phenoxyethanol be clearly listed on product ingredient labels so consumers are aware of its presence. This allows individuals with sensitivities or allergies to Phenoxyethanol to make informed choices. Companies are responsible for verifying their Phenoxyethanol levels are within legal compliance through testing of finished products prior to distribution. The FSA conducts random audits and tests to ensure regulations are being followed.

Safety Of Phenoxyethanol Use

While Phenoxyethanol is widely used as a preservative, some consumer groups have raised concerns about its safety. The main concern stems from studies showing Phenoxyethanol can be absorbed through the skin. However, the FSA and most toxicologists agree that the low concentrations allowed in cosmetics and personal care products present minimal health risks to consumers when used as intended.

Extensive safety testing has demonstrated the 1-5% limits are well below levels that could cause toxicity issues for most individuals. However, rare sensitization or allergic reactions are possible in certain individuals, which is why clear labelling of Phenoxyethanol is important. The FSA continues to monitor the safety research on Phenoxyethanol and reviews its policies periodically to consider emerging data. For now, qualified experts generally consider Phenoxyethanol a safe ingredient when used within regulated levels.

Alternative preservative options

While Phenoxyethanol remains a staple preservative in New Zealand cosmetics manufacturing, some companies are exploring alternative options. Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) and Methylisothiazolinone (MI) are popular natural-derived preservatives being utilized more frequently in place of Phenoxyethanol in certain product lines.

Banks Chemical, a personal care product formulator located in Wellington, has launched several new “phenoxyethanol-free” lines using MCI/MI blends as the primary preservative system. According to company representatives, some consumers perceive these natural preservatives as more desirable ingredients. However, MCI/MI blends have also been linked to a higher risk of allergic reactions in certain users compared to Phenoxyethanol.

Sustainability of New Zealand Phenoxyethanol Industry

As concerns grow around sustainability and reducing environmental impact, Phenoxyethanol manufacturers are seeking ways to improve their production processes. Nuplex Industries recently retrofitted their Phenoxyethanol plant with new energy-efficient equipment and procedures. This modernization project is expected to reduce their carbon footprint by over 30% per ton of product manufactured.

Nuplex is also investigating the potential to source starting materials for Phenoxyethanol synthesis from renewable feedstocks rather than petroleum-based sources. However, developing reliable suppliers of renewable starting materials and validating their equivalence for commercial-scale production present substantial technical challenges. Researchers will continue working to establish sustainable options over the coming years.

Overall, Phenoxyethanol remains prevalent in New Zealand's cosmetics industry due to its effectiveness and low cost as a preservative. However, issues surrounding safety, regulations, sustainability, and consumer preferences will likely drive ongoing modifications to its production and use over the long term. Both manufacturers and formulators in the personal care field will need to adapt as research, regulations and customer demands progress.

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