Benzyl alcohol is a colorless liquid that has a mild, pleasant aromatic scent. It’s also called an “aromatic alcohol,” and is used as a preservative, as a fragrance ingredient, as the active ingredient in head lice treatment, and as a solvent, which simply means that it’s used to dissolve other ingredients to make a smooth formula or solution.
Benzyl alcohol also works as an anesthetic, so it is sometimes added to formulas that relieve itching, especially eye products. Most of the time, you’ll find this ingredient in bath products, soaps and detergents, eye makeup, blushes, cleansing products, shaving products, makeup, and blush, as well as in hair, nail, and other skin care products.
The FDA has approved benzyl alcohol for use as a synthetic flavoring agent for direct addition to food, as well as an anesthetic in oral healthcare and topical analgesic drug products. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) has concluded that its safe for use in cosmetic products, at concentrations of up to 5 percent, and up to 10 percent in hair dyes.