Many people rightly query ingredients in skincare products, such as benzyl alcohol, as they don’t know what they are, and often because they have been told that they an allergy or reaction to an ingredient. So I’m here to make things nice and simple.
Here comes the science bit …. benzyl alcohol is an aromatic alcohol; it is a colourless liquid which smells nice, naturally occurs in some essential oils and, it has antimicrobial properties (which means it stops bacteria growing), and so is often used as a preservative in natural skincare.
It has low toxicity, which means it is generally considered safe to use on the skin in the right amount.
The fact that it contains the word alcohol doesn’t mean it is like vodka or something that is very drying to the skin; it just means some complicated chemistry thing to do with carbon atoms being bound to hydrogen (yeah, don’t ask). The kind of drying alcohol you don’t want in skincare include alcohol denat and methanol; they will strip your skin of its lovely natural oil. Those alcohols are often found in skin toners, but not in ours.
Essential oils where benzyl alcohol naturally occurs include ylang ylang, jasmine and tolu it also occurs in some foods such as cocoa, cranberries, mushrooms and honey.
A very small minority of people are allergic/react to benzyl alcohol, but if used correctly, in a very low dose in a product, it is very safe, and a natural way to preserve cosmetics that include oil and water. It is an approved preservative under COSMOS organic certification.
It is important to note that if you don’t preserve creams that contain both oil and water, they will go rancid and that would be very bad for your skin. All properly assessed cosmetics that contain an oil and water mix MUST also contain a preservative. If you ever come across a “natural” handmade brand that contains oil and water, and it doesn’t contain a preservative, then I can assure you that it hasn’t been signed off by a safety assessment chemist and isn’t insured. I you want to know more about that and the legal side of making cosmetics then do contact me or The Guild of Craft Soap & Toiletry Makers, of which LJ Natural is a member.
If you’d like to know more about naturally occurring allergens in skincare products and in essential oils then pop over to our other two blogs about it – this one is about linalool and this one is about other natural allergens.
Hope you found this useful.