Benzyl Alcohol – Preserving With Plants

Since several of the parabens have been put on the poo-poo list, I have been working with alternative preservatives, trying them out in different products. One of these newbies (for me) is Benzyl Alcohol (INCI: Benzyl alcohol).

Natural Source 

Benzyl alcohol is produced naturally in many plants, fruits (such as strawberries) and some essential oils (such as ylang ylang and jasmine). As it derives from aromatic material, it has an inherently pleasant scent. 
You'll find it is frequently used as the preservative for intravenous medicines, as well as – of all things – photographic developer.

Broad Spectrum 

Benzyl alcohol functions by killing or preventing the growth of a broad spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and moulds, and is ideal for emulsions as well as soap or water-based produtcs. 
I have therefore been trying it out in everything from skin tonics to hair and bath products (hair & body wash, shampoo) and must admit – so far, it seems to be functioning as well as my old faves, Ethyl and Methyl Paraben.


The Environmental Working Group gives benzyl alcohol a rating of 'moderate hazard', which I found a bit confusing until I saw what their concerns were. Their conclusion: if you stay within the limits of use and don't overdose, there are no concerns. Fair enough. There was, however, one area listed as 'unkown', and that was whether or not there should be concerns when the ingredient is inhaled. Apparantly there are as yet no studies on this.


María Zamora said…
Hi Lise,

I've used before Cosgard (a mix of benzyl alcohol and dehydroacetic acid) with good results, and even the fact that it is liquid is helpful for dosage. Concerning benzyl alcohol all alone, do you think it could be enough just itself as a preservative or would it be better to associate it to another one, as potassium sorbate (for moulds and yeasts)?

Many thanks for your help :)
Lise M Andersen said…
HI María - Benzyl alcohol is categorised as broad spectrum and therefore ok as a stand alone for many products - :)