Ethyl Benzoate in Fragrances, Cosmetics and Food: Properties & Safety

Ethyl benzoate is a clear, colorless liquid with a sweet odor. It’s used in fragrances, as well as in some cosmetics, foods and other products. If you’re unsure about its safety or why it’s on the ingredient list of your new beauty product, read on!
ethyl benzoate

What Is Ethyl Benzoate?

From a chemistry standpoint, ethyl benzoate is the ethyl ester of benzoic acid. Benzoic acid is a compound that’s found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, as well as in some essential oils. When benzoic acid is combined with ethyl alcohol (ethanol), ethyl benzoate is formed.

Ethyl benzoate has a sweet, floral aroma and is used as a fragrance ingredient in many products, including perfumes, colognes, soaps and lotions. It’s also used as a flavor ingredient in some foods and beverages. It’s listed on labels as “ethyl benzoate” or under the less precise name “parfum.”

The compound is insoluble in water, but it’s miscible (capable of being mixed) with alcohol and other organic solvents. Now that you know all about its chemical makeup, let’s move on to ethyl benzoate’s properties and uses.

Properties That Make Ethyl Benzoate a Good Fragrance Ingredient

Ethyl benzoate has a few properties that make it an ideal fragrance ingredient. First, it’s insoluble in water, so it won’t dissolve in sweat or water and won’t wash away easily. Second, it has a relatively low vapor pressure, which means it doesn’t evaporate as quickly as some other fragrance ingredients. This property helps ethyl benzoate last longer in a product, so the scent isn’t as fleeting.

Its scent has been described as sweet or fruity, and it’s said to resemble wintergreen, chamomile, celery, cherries or grapes. Ethyl benzoate is used alone or in combination with other fragrance ingredients to create a desired scent. It’s versatile enough to be used in a variety of products, including perfumes and colognes.

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Why Is It Used in Other Cosmetics?

In addition to its fragrance-enhancing properties, ethyl benzoate is also used as a fixative or preservative in some cosmetics. It’s used to help other fragrance ingredients last longer. It can also be used in hair products, such as hair sprays, to help the product adhere to the hair.

You’ll find ethyl benzoate listed as an ingredient in a variety of cosmetics, including:

  • perfumes;
  • colognes;
  • hair sprays;
  • lotions;
  • soaps.

If you see it on the ingredient list of a product that isn’t supposed to be fragrant, it’s likely there as a preservative. You may have heard that preservatives are generally bad for your skin, but ethyl benzoate is a safe and effective one.

Why Is It Used in Food?

Ethyl benzoate is also used as a flavor ingredient in some foods and beverages. It’s often used to add a cherry or grape-like flavor to food. You’ll find it in:

  • jams;
  • jellies;
  • soft drinks;
  • liqueurs.

While ethyl benzoate is considered safe for most people, there are a few safety concerns to be aware of. We’ll cover them below.

Is Ethyl Benzoate Safe for Your Health?

The safety of ethyl benzoate has been extensively studied, and it’s generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In large quantities, it’s an irritant, but it’s not considered toxic. People handling the ingredient should take precautions to avoid skin contact and inhaling it.

A small number of people may be allergic to ethyl benzoate. If you have a history of allergic reactions to cosmetics or other fragrance ingredients, you may want to avoid products that contain ethyl benzoate. If you’re unsure whether you’re allergic to ethyl benzoate, consult a board-certified dermatologist or allergist.

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Key Takeaways

Ethyl benzoate is a synthetic compound used as a fragrance ingredient in many cosmetics and as a flavor ingredient in some foods. It’s generally considered safe, but a small number of people may be allergic to it. If you’re concerned about ethyl benzoate’s safety, talk to a board-certified dermatologist or allergist.

Do you have any other questions about ethyl benzoate? Let us know in the comments below! We’ll do our best to answer them.

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