Prophylactic self-isolation for skin rejuvenation. Day 78th.

Self-sufficient skin rejuvenation. Part 4.


Let’s kick off a forthright concept of “good cream” and “bad cream” and just continue going deeper in l’earning about the essence of cosmetic products. We earn what we l’earn, right?:)

By decoding the ingredient lists of cosmetic products I could keep myself busy for weeks. As for that, few weeks of self-isolation under COVID-19 screen could pass just like that

Here is the composition of the real cosmetic product, body/face oil, supposed to be as natural as possible – 96% of the ingredients are of natural origin! Let’s dive deep into it and see what is really what 🙂 The ingredient (benzyl salicylate), which we will discuss here today is marked with number 7.

Ingredient list of the cosmetic product – body/face oil

Clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 were discussed in the previous post. You can read my previous posts dedicated to cosmetic products here:

Here we continue and deal with the aroma ingredients of the actual body/face oil

7. Benzyl salicylate, linalool, limonene, citronellol, geraniol

Fragrances/ parfum

In a composition of cosmetic products, fragrances are a material or combination of materials to produce or to mask a particular odor. There are 26 fragrances in EU, which must be labelled, if they are present in the formulation at concentrations greater than 0.001% in leave-on products (like face/body creams) or greater than 0.01% in rinse-off products (like shampoos). All 26 fragrances are listed below (1). Find them in your favorable cosmetics!

Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone  
Amyl Cinnamal  
Amylcinnamyl Alcohol  
Anise Alcohol  
Benzyl Alcohol  
Benzyl Benzoate  
Benzyl Cinnamate  
Benzyl Salicylate  
Butylphenyl Methylpropionol  
Cinnamyl Alcohol  
Evernia Prunastri (Oakmoss) Extract  
Evernia Furfuracea (Treemoss) Extract  
Hexyl Cinnamal  
Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde  
Methyl 2-Octynoate  
Fragrances in EU, which must be labelled if presented in cosmetic products at certain concentrations

However, as it is mentioned in the disclaimer of the Dictionary (1): “The inclusion of any ingredient means only that it is offered for sale for use in cosmetic products. It does not imply that the substance is safe for use as a cosmetic ingredient … The suitability for use of any ingredient, as a component of a finished cosmetic product or for any other purpose, is solely the responsibility of the cosmetic product manufacturer, the distributor, or other users of this publication”.

Most of the cosmetic fragrances are primarily of natural origin, extracted from plants or other natural substances. However, it does not mean that fragrance in the particular cosmetic product is of natural origin too (unless it is clearly written on a label). As far as chemical formula of the particular aroma component is discovered, synthesis in a laboratory has begun. Chemical synthesis is many times cheaper than natural raw material, and could be obtained many times faster and in any season of a year. Commercial benzyl salicylate is made by reacting sodium salicylate with benzyl chloride and is > 98 pure (2).

Benzyl salicylate. Is it natural?

Benzyl salicylate contributes to aroma of flowers and plant blossom to attract bees. Benzyl salicylate is naturally found in plants of Plumeria genus (family Apocinaceae) and Annonaceae family, other flowers and biologically active compounds – propolis. For example, the essential oil of plant Plumeria obtusa was found to be rich in benzyl salicylate (45.4%), while the essential oil of plant flowers Melodorum sp (L.W. Jessup) contains only 2.7% and ylang ylang only 2-5% of benzyl salicylate.

However, one should appreciate that Nature is rich and diverse. Not only benzyl salicylate contributes to aroma of ylang ylang, there are more than 100 (one hundred!) aroma compounds in this plant, and benzyl salicylate contributes only by tiny part (3-6).

Singapore graveyard flower (Plumeria obtusa)

Credit: Flowers of Plumeria obtusa (Frangipani, Plumeria), source:

Very often, benzyl salicylate and another compound – benzyl benzoate – occur in a large number of plant occur together. Plants containing large amounts of these compounds (esters) either alone or together include: Uvaria purpurea, Cananga odorata, Aniba species, Nicotiana sylvestris and N. suaveolens (lO,ll), Sercuridaca longipenduwculata, Diospyros discolor, Gardenia taitensis, Dianthus cayophyllus, Cinnammum species, Ocotea teleiandra and Primula furinosa (7).

Because propolis is a product of bees’ activity – not surprising that benzyl salicylate, as a part of aroma of flavorful flowers, is present in propolis too.

Gardenia is a flower, and there is a bee type called Gardenia too!

Gardenia Bee Hawk Moth (Cephonodes kingii)

Credit: Cephonodes kingii (Gardenia Bee Hawk Moth) feeding on a rainy day, Claire Cottage Dorrigo, 6 pm 23 Feb 2020, source:

As a fragrance

Benzyl salicylate is a fragrant organic solvent widely used in the perfume industry because of its pleasant smell (sweet, balsamic odor) and its ability to facilitate the mixing of perfumes into the rather greasy soap substances (solvent properties) (8).

It has been in public use since the 1920s where the soap and detergent industry has been a major user (2).

Estimated world consumption of benzyl salicylate as aroma chemical in flavor and fragrance composition was 950 tones in 1996 and grew almost 10-fold in 2006 – 8000 tones (9).

Body lotion, face cream, eau de toilette, fragrance cream, antiperspirant, shampoo, bath products, shower gel, toilet soap, aftershave and hair spray and non-cosmetic products such as household cleaners and detergents contain benzyl salicylate (10).

Skin sensitization, penetration through skin, allergy

In early 1960th, first reports and scientific studies were made regarding allergic reactions of benzyl salicylate (2). In 1968, there was a scientific study describing allergy reactions to toilet soaps and detergents in patients with dermatitis. It was found that in most cases, sensitivity to cosmetic product was associated with sensitivity to benzyl salicylate (8). That was the study completed decades ago!

If skin is already damaged or unhealthy (dermatitis patients) – benzyl salicylate causes sensitization responses when it is applied to the skin under exaggerated exposure conditions. On the other hand, benzyl salicylate is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a flavor and is generally recognized as a safe ingredient by Flavor and Extract Manufactures’ Association (10).

The questions is “What to do?” One could obviously choose the answer for himself.

Pigmented Contact Dermatitis

Pigmented contact dermatitis could be described as brownish hyperpigmentation on skin. Pigmented contact dermatitis on face could occur, because cosmetic products, like aftershave and face cleansers, make-up, etc. most likely contain benzyl salicylate.

Prior to the 1970s, benzyl salicylate was one of the common causes of pigmented contact dermatitis in Japan. In the late 1970s, major cosmetic companies reduced the usage of benzyl salicylate in their products and, since then, the incidence of pigmented contact dermatitis has decreased remarkably.

Within the last decade, new severe cases of pigmented contact dermatitis on face are known (11, 12).

Estrogenic activity (breast cancer)

Estradiol is a natural female sexual hormone, among others, which plays its functional role in a body. However, the “bad story” begins when the hormones are not in balance – when the level of a particular hormone is too high or too low – it causes other hormones to adapt and brings some kind of “mess” in the order – hormonal misbalance.

Some chemicals (like benzyl salicylate) and even plant-based food products (soya; lupin; barley – in beer!) contain substances which could imbalance natural body estradiol levels (both in males and females). When estradiol levels in a body are in a wrong concentration – it could imbalance body orchestra and therefore could cause various types of cancer (the worst scenario), firstly breast cancer in women.

Research article, published in 2009, has shown that benzyl salicylate (as well as benzyl benzoate and butylphenylmethylpropional) are chemical components of cosmetic products which provoke estrogenic responses in a human breast cancer (in vivo study – with human cells), i.e. could cause cancer (13).

In another research study it was calculated that users worldwide consume more benzyl salicylate (which induces estradiol imbalance) than it is supposed to be according to maximum secure daily estradiol intake, recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (14). So, no matter what doses are written as safe in the official documents – consumers do not calculate these doses and that would be absolutely impossible task for an average citizen to complete.

No matter what doses are written as safe in the official documents – consumers do not calculate these doses and that would be absolutely impossible task for an average citizen to complete


Benzyl salicylate is a representative of the salicylates group. Salicylates are chemically active compounds and known to be incompatible with many other chemical materials used in cosmetics or food (2), such as:

Benzalkonium Chloride  phenylmercuric salts should be used in preference to benzalkonium chloride as a preservative for salicylates
Glycerin (the same as glycerol)  could darken a mixture if glycerin is contaminated with iron
Magnesium oxide  could be adsorbed onto magnesium oxide
Polyoxyethylene Alkyl Ethers                            discoloration or precipitation may occur
Polyoxyethylene stearates  discoloration or precipitation may occur
Potassium alum  grey or green colors may be developed in a mixture, because of traces of iron in the alum.
Povidone  forms molecular adducts in solution
Sodium bicarbonate  can intensify the darkening of salicylates
Incompatibilities of benzyl salicylate with other chemical substances

Although the above-mentioned incompatibilities are mostly important for the manufacturer of cosmetic products, not for a consumer, it is worth to know about it. Because we earn what we l’earn, and sometimes incompatible materials still appear in some commercial products (note form the personal observation).

To be continued…


  1. Nikitakis J, Lange B. International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook Online Version (wINCI). 2019.
  2. Kohrman K, Booman K, Dorsky J, Rothenstein A, Sedlak R, Steltenkamp R, et al. Benzyl salicylate: a survey of consumer patch-test sensitization. Food and chemical toxicology. 1983;21(6):741-4.
  3. Devprakash TR, Gurav S, Kumar G, Mani TT. An review of phytochemical constituents and pharmacological activity of Plumeria species. Int.J.Curr.Pharm.Res. 2012;4:1-6.
  4. Thang TD, Dai DN, Hoi TM, Ogunwande IA. Essential oils from five species of Annonaceae from Vietnam. Natural product communications. 2013;8(2):1934578X1300800228.
  5. Aliboni A. Propolis from Northern California and Oregon: chemical composition, botanical origin, and content of allergens. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C. 2014;69(1-2):10-20.
  6. Ekundayo O. A review of the volatiles of the Annonaceae. J Essent Oil Res. 1989;1(5):223-45.
  7. Brophy JJ, Goldsack RJ, Forster PI. Essential oil of austromatthaea elegans ls smith (monimiaceae) leaves. J Essent Oil Res. 1995;7(6):585-8.
  8. Rothenborg HW, Hjorth N. Allergy to perfumes from toilet soaps and detergents in patients with dermatitis. Arch Dermatol. 1968;97(4):417-21.
  9. Schwab W, Davidovich‐Rikanati R, Lewinsohn E. Biosynthesis of plant‐derived flavor compounds. The plant journal. 2008;54(4):712-32.
  10. Lapczynski A, McGinty D, Jones L, Bhatia S, Letizia C, Api A. Fragrance material review on benzyl salicylate. Food and chemical toxicology. 2007;45(1):S362-80.
  11. Zaaroura H, Bergman R, Nevet MJ. Pigmented Facial Contact Dermatitis to Benzyl Salicylate: A Comparative Histopathological and Immunohistochemical Study of the Involved Skin and the Positive Patch Test Site. Am J Dermatopathol. 2019 Jun;41(6):443-7.
  12. Alagappan U, Tay Y, Lim SR. Pigmented contact dermatitis secondary to benzyl salicylate. Acta Derm Venereol. 2013;93(5):590.
  13. Charles A, Darbre P. Oestrogenic activity of benzyl salicylate, benzyl benzoate and butylphenylmethylpropional (Lilial) in MCF7 human breast cancer cells in vitro. Journal of Applied Toxicology. 2009;29(5):422-34.
  14. Zhang Z, Jia C, Hu Y, Sun L, Jiao J, Zhao L, et al. The estrogenic potential of salicylate esters and their possible risks in foods and cosmetics. Toxicol Lett. 2012;209(2):146-53.

Cover image (Lady looking to a laptop screen) by Pexels

Disclaimer and Usage Policy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.