Benzoic Acid



No known benefits

Benzoic Acid at a glance

  • Recognised as a safe, well-tolerated preservative
  • Also functions as a pH adjuster in skin care formulations
  • Naturally aromatic but usually isn’t used in high enough potency to impart scent in skin care products
  • Needs to be used in combination with other preservatives for optimum protection

Benzoic Acid description

Benzoic acid functions as a preservative and pH adjuster in skin care formulations. It is known to be well tolerated and unlikely to cause sensitisation in amounts commonly used. It should be combined with other preservatives in order to prevent broader contamination, particularly in water-based formulas. Benzoic acid primarily serves to reduce growth of fungi. It is not considered very active against bacteria. In 2017, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel looked at personal care products using up to 5% benzoic acid and ruled that this ingredient is safe in cosmetic use. When used as a preservative in skin care products, you’ll find benzoic acid in much lower concentrations, usually between 0.2–0.5%. Note: While benzoic acid can be aromatic in nature, it usually isn’t used in high enough potency to deliver a detectable scent in skin care products. Fun fact: Benzoic acid is naturally found in fruits (berries), nuts, spices and vegetables. Rich sources include strawberries, cayenne pepper, mustard, prunes, cinnamon, and cloves. Benzoic acid is also added to food products as a preservative.

Benzoic Acid references

  • Introduction to the Chemistry of Food, 2020, pages 251-311
  • Code of Federal Regulations, April 2020, ePublication
  • Encyclopedia of Food Chemistry, 2019, pages 1-9
  • International Journal of Toxicology, November 2017, pages 5S-30S

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.