Zinc Phenolsulfonate: What Is It, Cosmetic Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: February 27, 2024
Table of Contents

Navigating the world of cosmetics can often feel like trying to decipher a complex scientific formula, especially when you’re confronted with a myriad of scientific names on product labels. One such ingredient that you may have come across is Zinc Phenolsulfonate. In this article, we will delve into the nitty-gritty of this ingredient, exploring its purpose and why it’s commonly used in cosmetic products.

What is Zinc Phenolsulfonate?

Zinc Phenolsulfonate, also known as Zinc Bis(4-Hydroxybenzenesulphonate), is a versatile ingredient used in the cosmetic industry. It’s not just a mouthful to say, but it also packs a punch in terms of its functionality within cosmetic products.

This ingredient is synthesized through a chemical reaction involving zinc and phenolsulfonic acid. The result is a compound that serves multiple purposes within cosmetic formulations. Its primary functions, as outlined by CosIng, are as an antimicrobial, astringent, and deodorant.

As an antimicrobial, Zinc Phenolsulfonate works by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi, which can help to prevent infections and improve the shelf life of products. Its astringent properties mean it can help to tighten and tone the skin, while its deodorant function works by neutralizing odors, making it a popular choice for products like deodorants and foot sprays.

Zinc Phenolsulfonate is typically not sold as a standalone product. Instead, you’ll most often find it as part of a wider formulation of ingredients within a product’s formulation, contributing to the product’s overall effectiveness.

Who Can Use Zinc Phenolsulfonate?

Zinc Phenolsulfonate is a pretty versatile ingredient and is generally suitable for all skin types. Whether you have oily, dry, or combination skin, this ingredient can offer benefits without causing irritation.

For those following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you’ll be pleased to know that Zinc Phenolsulfonate is suitable for you too. It’s synthesized from non-animal derived ingredients, making it a cruelty-free choice.

As for pregnant or breastfeeding women, there’s no specific evidence to suggest that Zinc Phenolsulfonate is harmful. However, as with any new product or ingredient, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before use. This is especially true during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when changes in the body can sometimes lead to unexpected reactions to products.

Zinc Phenolsulfonate’s Cosmetic Benefits/Uses

The following section will focus solely on the cosmetic benefits and uses of Zinc Phenolsulfonate. It’s important to note that this ingredient may have other applications in various industries, but those are beyond the scope of this article. The benefits listed below are based on the official functions of Zinc Phenolsulfonate as an antimicrobial, astringent, and deodorant.

  • Antimicrobial Properties: Zinc Phenolsulfonate is known for its antimicrobial properties. This means it can inhibit the growth and reproduction of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. In the context of cosmetics, this is particularly beneficial as it can help prevent the growth of bacteria on the skin, which can lead to acne and other skin infections. By inhibiting the growth of these microorganisms, Zinc Phenolsulfonate can help maintain the health and clarity of the skin.
  • Astringent Effects: As an astringent, Zinc Phenolsulfonate has the ability to shrink or constrict body tissues. In cosmetic applications, this translates to the tightening of the skin. This can help reduce the appearance of pores, making the skin look smoother and more refined. Additionally, the astringent properties of Zinc Phenolsulfonate can help control excess oil on the skin, which can prevent the formation of acne and give the skin a matte finish.
  • Deodorant Function: Zinc Phenolsulfonate also functions as a deodorant. It does this by neutralizing the odors produced by the bacteria present on the skin. Unlike some deodorants that simply mask odors, Zinc Phenolsulfonate actually eliminates them, providing a more effective and long-lasting solution. This makes it a popular ingredient in deodorants and antiperspirants.

Potential Side Effects/Adverse Reactions

The side effects and reactions to the topical application of Zinc Phenolsulfonate can vary greatly from person to person. It’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is unique, and what works well for one person may not work as well for another.

Potential side effects and interactions related to the topical application of Zinc Phenolsulfonate include:

  • Skin irritation, including redness, itching, or burning
  • Dryness or flaking of the skin
  • Allergic reactions, such as hives or rash
  • Sensitivity to sunlight

If you experience any of these side effects while using Zinc Phenolsulfonate, or a product containing it, it’s important to stop using the product immediately and consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on how to best manage the reaction and suggest alternative products if necessary.

Adverse reactions to Zinc Phenolsulfonate are generally rare, but they can occur. It’s important to remember that even if a product is generally considered safe, individual reactions can vary.

One of the best ways to minimize the risk of adverse reactions is to perform a patch test before using a new product. A patch test involves applying a small amount of the product to a discreet area of skin and waiting 24 hours to see if a reaction occurs. This can help you identify potential sensitivities or allergies before applying the product to a larger area of skin. For a detailed guide on how to perform a patch test, check out our patch testing guide.

Comedogenic Rating

Comedogenicity refers to the potential of a substance to cause comedones, which are skin blemishes often associated with acne. These blemishes occur when pores become clogged with excess sebum and dead skin cells. In the context of cosmetic ingredients, a substance’s comedogenic rating indicates its likelihood to clog pores and potentially lead to acne.

Zinc Phenolsulfonate has a comedogenic rating of 0. This means it is non-comedogenic and does not clog pores. The rating is based on the molecular structure and properties of Zinc Phenolsulfonate. It is a zinc salt of phenolsulfonic acid, which has astringent and antimicrobial properties. These properties help to reduce excess sebum and eliminate bacteria, reducing the likelihood of pore clogging.

Therefore, Zinc Phenolsulfonate is suitable for individuals prone to acne or breakouts. Its non-comedogenic nature means it won’t contribute to pore clogging, and its antimicrobial and astringent properties can help manage existing acne by reducing oiliness and eliminating acne-causing bacteria.


Zinc Phenolsulfonate serves several key functions in cosmetics, including acting as an antimicrobial, astringent, and deodorant. Its antimicrobial properties help to eliminate bacteria, while its astringent properties help to tighten the skin and reduce oiliness. As a deodorant, it helps to neutralize body odors.

Despite its beneficial properties, Zinc Phenolsulfonate is not widely popular in the cosmetic industry. It is similar to other zinc salts used in cosmetics, such as Zinc PCA and Zinc Gluconate, which also have antimicrobial and astringent properties.

In terms of safety, Zinc Phenolsulfonate is generally considered safe to use. Its non-comedogenic nature makes it suitable for all skin types, including those prone to acne. However, as with all cosmetic ingredients, it’s important to use products containing Zinc Phenolsulfonate as directed to avoid potential skin irritation.

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