Monday, June 13, 2011

Farnesol - From Perfume to Medicine

Farnesol (INCI: Farnesol) is an organic compound (a natural sesquiterpene alcohol) that is present in numerous essential oils. For example, you'll find it in as a component of citronella, lemongrass, tuberose, rose (and more). It's a versatile, controversial and complex ingredient.

A Variety of Capabilities and Uses
Farnesol has a long and varied history of use, starting in perfumery. Over time, it has made its way into a several different areas and today, you will find farnesol functioning
- as a flavor enhancer for foods
- as an additive to cigarettes (!)
- as a bactericide in hygienic products
- as a deodorizing agent

Born in Italy
Farnesol is named after the Farnese Acacia flower (one of the first flowers used to extract farnesol). The flower got its name from the Italian Farnese family, known for creating one of the worlds first botanical gardens in the 15th century. The 'ol' at the end of the farnesol name tells you that it is an alcohol.

One of the 26
In perfumery, farnesol is used to anchor and enhance the components of a perfume. Because it is a key ingredient in perfumes (and therefore a possible allergen), it is one of the 26 specific fragrance ingredients that have to be declared according to the EU cosmetic directive.

Where You Might Find it Tomorrow
Some of the most recent focus on farnesol has been for its possible medical capabilities. Lab testing has shown that it exhibits an ability to reduce tumor growth and that it could also be a possible aid to battling lung cancer (a bit ironic, as it is an additive to cigarettes!)

No Sweat - or Rather, No Smell
My main interest in farnesol has been for its deodorizing properties. Although it is not an antiperspirant, it does effectively kill the bacteria that makes sweat smell unpleasant. My supplier recommends a dose (for deodorant use) 'from 0,3% to 1%'. I use the minimum amount, combining with other ingredients such as 'natural deodorant crystals' (potassium alum), lemon ester, and essential oils with deodorizing capabilities to create as gentle and effective a 'cocktail of actives' as possible.

The Deodorant Quest
I started developing deodorants several years ago when both my husband and I had gotten well and truly fed up with not being able to find any commercially made deodorant products that fulfilled our requirements:
1. musn't sting – even if applied directly after shaving
2. musn't smell like 'a chemical factory' (my husband is particularly sensitive in this area, but neither of us find synthetic perfume appealing)
3. musn't feel like a layer of sticky goo
4. must de-odorize for longer than an hour or 2. (Picky creatures that we are, we both demand all-day protection).

LisaLise Products With Farnesol 
The Body Fresh Deodorant Series has seen many batches before being fully developed. Happily, these formulas continue to function well, even after years of uninterrupted use. The series is among my more popular products and will be included in the up and coming Buddy Order Program.
Find the Body Fresh Deodorants here
Geranium Deodorant
Lavender Deodorant
Melissa Deodorant

More Fun Things That Farnesol Can Do
- Act as a pesticide for mites
- Act as a cell-regenerative anti-wrinkle agent
- Be a component of vitamin K

Not Fun Things That Farnesol May Do
- Be a possible irritant for the perfume allergic

Extra Info
- This posting at Apoptosis Research states farnesol is worth studying as a possible tumor-reducing and therapeutic agent.


Rikke E. said...

Thanks for explaining everything about farnesol!!

Lise M Andersen said...

You are so welcome... (but this is definitely not everything.. I had trouble keeping this posting as short as it is..)

Cynthia Gilbert said...

Thanks so much for the information on Farnesol. I didn't see it listed on you deodorant ingredients, di you opt not to use it?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Cynthia - you are right! i used farnesol in the original roll-on formula but at one point it looked like I wasn't going to be able to source it any more, so I reformulated all of my roll-ons and changed the ingredients list on my website.

I now have 2 different roll-on formulas and need to update the info on my website.

Thanks for pointing this out -- it's now on my to-do list!


Hi, thank you for your article.
Where can we buy natural extract of farnesol ?
If we want to make our own roll on deodorant or pesticide ?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Frederique- My suppliers have carried farnesol off and on, but if you visit Aroma Zone (link on the sidebar) you will find they offer a farnesol and lemon ester combination under their deodorant actives. Best of luck with it