What is Benzyl Alcohol?

Zara Kassam BSc (Hons), MRes, PhD researcher

What is Benzyl Alcohol?

Benzyl alcohol is a naturally occurring product, most commonly found in some teas, and foods including apricots, snap beans, cocoa, cranberries, mushrooms and honey. Benzyl Alcohol is also found in the essential oil of many plants, including jasmine, hyacinth and ylang-ylang. It may also be synthetically produced from natural ingredients such as mushsrooms.

It is a colourless liquid with a mild aromatic odour. Its primary function in skin care is as a preservative.


What does it do?

Benzyl alcohol is used as a bacteriostatic preservative (a chemical agent that stops bacteria from reproducing) at low concentration in cosmetics and topical creams. Benzyl alcohol is also used for its anaesthetic properties.




The FDA has approved benzyl alcohol safe for use, as an anaesthetic in topical products in concentrations up to 5% .

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) has concluded that it’s safe for use in cosmetic and skin care products, at concentrations of up to 5%.

Studies have indicated that over use of products containing Benzyl alcohol may cause a skin allergy and it is therefore it is known as a skin sensitizer.

Patch testing is recommended prior to use.


Other names

Benzenemethanol, Phenylmethanol, Phenylcarbinol


Friedrich Brühne; Elaine Wright (2007), “Benzyl Alcohol”, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, pp. 7–8

Prescribing Information for Ulesfia Lotion (PDF), Sciele Pharmaceuticals, Inc.


EJ Curry; EM Warshaw (2005), “Benzyl alcohol allergy: importance of patch testing with personal products.”, Dermatitis (16): 203–8