Benzyl Salicylate in Skin Care – Is It Safe?

Benzyl Salicylate in Skin Care - Is It Safe

Benzyl salicylate is an ingredient popular in shampoos, conditioners, and makeup products. But it’s also in many skincare products. This ingredient occurs naturally in some plants. However, it is synthetically produced for personal, haircare, and skincare products.

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So if this ingredient is in all these products, what does it do? Is it safe for the skin? Let’s take a deeper look at the uses of benzyl salicylate in skincare.

What Is Benzyl Salicylate?

Benzyl salicylate is an ester, a chemical compound derived from an acid. It’s the esterification of salicylic acid with benzyl alcohol. It is a colorless liquid with a mild, sweet, floral smell.

Benzyl salicylate is one of the first skincare ingredients to help protect the skin from UV rates. Even back in the 1920s! This benefit and its subtle fragrance make it popular in skincare products today. It is in a wide variety of products including lip balm, sunscreen, lotion, and creams. However, despite some useful properties, it’s a relatively unstable and unsafe ingredient.

It is best to avoid using skin care products that contain benzyl salicylate for those with sensitive or irritation-prone skin.

Is Benzyl Salicylate safe?

Is Benzyl Salicylate Safe?

Overall, the safety of benzyl salicylate is quite poor. It does not have many benefits for the skin and it poses dangers to sensitive skin and those prone to allergic reactions. Also, it can cause allergic reactions when applied to the skin, even in very small amounts.

Benzyl salicylate can cause contact dermatitis (skin irritation) to people with sensitive skin types. It is a “medium-risk” ingredient. Given the limited benefits, it’s not worth it.

It is also on the European Commission’s list of 26 known allergens. Some of the other ingredients on this fragrance allergen list include LinaloolCoumarinGeraniol, and Limonene.

If you are sensitive to chemicals or have had allergic reactions to fragrances in the past, you may wish to avoid the use of benzyl salicylate in favor of other natural fragrances.

Benzyl Salicylate Uses & Skin Benefits

Wondering about Benzyl salicylate skin benefits? Benzyl salicylate is in personal care, hair care, and skincare products for its pleasant fragrance and as a skin protectant against UV light.

Consider the tradeoffs before using products with this ingredient. Though it can add a pleasant fragrance to skincare products and cosmetics, it may not be worth the risk.

Fragrance additive

The smell of benzyl salicylate is quite mild, and some people have a hard time detecting it. It has a sweet, floral smell that’s somewhat reminiscent of balsamic products like vinegar. It’s also described as having a “musky” smell.

UV light absorber

Benzyl salicylate is a UV light absorber and protectant in cosmetic products. Not only does it help protect the skin from sun damage, but it also helps protect skincare products from breaking down due to exposure to UV light, which is important in products that may be in clear or transparent packaging.

Is Benzyl Salicylate Vegan?

Benzyl salicylate is vegan and safe to use for those living a vegan lifestyle. Both of its components are plant-based –  benzyl alcohol is produced by a lot of different plants like jasmine, hyacinth, and ylang-ylang, and salicylic acid is harvested from the willow tree. It is fair game for vegans to use benzyl salicylate in skincare as long as the other ingredients in the product are also cruelty-free and plant-based.

However, due to the safety issues related to the use of benzyl salicylate, it is best to avoid use when possible, even in vegan products.


Benzyl salicylate has been shown to contribute to the proliferation of cells that may cause breast cancer. Those who are at risk of breast cancer should avoid products containing this skincare ingredient. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Also Known As:

Benzyl salicylate is also sometimes called Benzyl 2-hydroxybenzoate or Benzoic acid, but it’s most commonly referred to as benzyl salicylate on skincare products.

Even though Benzyl salicylate is derived from Salicylic acid, it is not the same thing. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that can come from willow bark. It is a very useful acne treatment ingredient that can help clear pores while it exfoliates the skin. Salicylic acid can also cause irritation and dry skin but it is a safe ingredient. It is also FDA approved for acne treatment.