What is it?
Benzyl alcohol is a component of jasmine, hyacinth, ylang-ylang oil, balsam Peru, balsam Tolu, and styrax. It is a fragrance ingredient used in a variety of products such as flavorings, essential oils and perfumes, and as an additive in some industrial chemicals.

How can I avoid it?
Skin contact with benzyl alcohol is required for it to cause a rash. Discontinuation of exposure to products containing benzyl alcohol
should result in improvement and/or resolution of your dermatitis. By law, all products made in the U.S. for topical use have the ingredients listed either on the product package or the box that contains it, so check the labeling of your skin care products for this ingredient. If there is not enough information, ask your pharmacist or retailer, or contact the company directly. At work, request a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to help identify potential sources of exposure.

The avoidance of fragrances and flavoring agents such as benzyl alcohol can be difficult, since so many everyday products contain these substances. One should use only fragrance-free cosmetic and household products. “Unscented” products may contain low levels of a fragrance to cover up an undesirable odor and also should be avoided. Products labeled as “hypoallergenic” do not
assure that the product is truly free of fragrance.

Since fragrances are complex mixtures of many ingredients, an individual may tolerate one fragrance but not another. A trial-and-error method of avoiding a fragrance allergen in a product can be performed by applying the product to the forearm in the same small area twice a day for a week. If no dermatitis develops, the product may likely be used safely.

Although it is rare, since some fragrances are also flavors, ingesting foods that contain them can sometimes cause flare-ups of dermatitis in fragrance-sensitive individuals. If your health care provider has diagnosed that you have oral or lip allergies to flavorings, it would be best to avoid foods prepared with benzyl alcohol.

  • Perfumes/Colognes/After-shaves/Toilet water
  • Skin care products/Cosmetics
    • Antiperspirants/Deodorants
    • Hair sprays, gels, tonics, and lotions
    • Hair colorants/“Permanents-Relaxers”
    • Soaps/Cleansers/Bodywash/Towelettes
    • Shampoos/Conditioners
    • Moisturizers
    • Make-ups
    • Nail polish/Nail polish remover
    • Powders/Sprays
    • Sunscreens
    • Essential oils – jasmine, hyacinth, and ylang-ylang
  • Topical medications (prescription and over the counter)
    • Anesthetics
    • Antiseptics
    • Creams, ointments, solutions
    • Foot and other powders
    • Nasal decongestants
    • Ophthalmic solutions
    • Preservatives in injectable drugs, intravenous medication, and allergy extracts
    • Herbal remedies, including traditional Chinese medications
    • Wound dressings
  • Household products
    • Cleaning products/Soaps/Detergents (A preferred household cleaner for fragrance-sensitive individuals is dilute
    • white vinegar.)
    • Furniture polish
    • Laundry care (detergent, softeners)
    • Room fresheners
  • Additive to foods and beverages as a flavoring or spice
  • Oral care products as a flavoring
    • Cough mixtures
    • Toothpaste/Mouthwash
    • Throat tablets and lozenges
  • Industrial/Manufacturing/Construction – uses
    • Metal working fluids
    • Paints and lacquers
    • Paint stripper
    • Photographic developer
    • Plastics
    • Sheet metal
    • Solvents (photography, dyes, and inks)
    • Water proofing
    • Woodworking
Other names for benzyl alcohol:
  • α-Hydroxytoluene
  • Benzenemethanol
  • Benzylic acid
  • α-toluenol
  • Euxyl K 100
  • Nipaguard MPA
  • Phenylcarbinol
  • Phenylmethanol
  • Phenylmethyl alcohol
Potential cross-reacting/co-reacting substances:
  • Benzoin tincture
  • Rarely cross reacts with fragrances and Balsam of Peru
    • Note: If you are allergic to benzyl alcohol, you should avoid it. The vast majority of patients allergic to fragrances can tolerate benzyl alcohol. However, if you are allergic to the fragrance called Balsam of Peru (which contains benzyl alcohol), the most cautious approach is to avoid benzyl alcohol. So for fragrance-allergic patients, unless you are allergic to Balsam of Peru, in general, you do not need to avoid benzyl alcohol.

How safe is it?

Hang tight. We're thinking.