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/or essential oils with deodorizing capabilities to create as gentle and effective a 'cocktail of actives' as possible.

The Deodorant Quest

I started developing deodorants 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 like synthetic perfume)
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.

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 article states farnesol is worth studying as a possible tumor-reducing and therapeutic agent.


Rikke said…
Thanks for explaining everything about farnesol!!
LisaLise said…
You are so welcome... (but this is definitely not everything.. I had trouble keeping this posting as short as it is..)
Unknown 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?
LisaLise 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 ?
LisaLise 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
Patty said…
Hi Lise!

Thanks for the post! I have never used farnesol as i am happy with my baking soda deodorant so far, but was thinking to give it a try. Before purchasing it, i would like to know if it really is effective? Over the years i have used different 'eco' deos, and although not a big sweater, i find baking soda works best of them all. I have noticed that with the commercial deos, the smell tends to get even worse than without using anything at all :D
LisaLise said…
HI Patty - Thanks for your comment. I have heard from many how effective baking soda is as a deodorant. It really is a pity that it is also a skin irritant, but it sounds like you are doing well with it so far. As for using farnesol, combining it with lemon ester will give you optimal effect. There are some cosmetics ingredients suppliers who offer this combination as 'deodorant actives'. Best of luck with it!