Chlorphenesin is commonly found in cosmetics, especially face creams and moisteurizers as a preservative.
It is also a muscle relaxant taken in the form chlorphenesin carbamate and as a prescription drug is severely regulated. Generally, it is used to treat muscle spasms and other types of pain although it is being superseded by other types of pharmaceutical.
Preservatives like chlorphenesin act as antibacterial and antifungal agents. It is a significant product stabiliser especially in those with a high water activity. The ingredient is permitted by EFSA in Europe and the FDA at a level of 0.3% by weight in cosmetics. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel assessed the chemical for its safety and released their assessement in October 2012. It is permitted in personal care products to a level of 0.3 per cent and was classified as possessing “negligible dermal irritation potential.”
One concern has been its presence in certain creams to reduce irritation of nipples especially in lactating mothers where a baby might be exposed to the preservative. Warnings are now given and it is thought most products for this purpose have been reformulated to remove such preservatives.