What is it?
Not to be confused with "alcohol," which refers to ethyl alcohol, this man-made preservative is a gentle alternative to ingredients that we avoid in all formulas, such as parabens, methylisothiazolinone (MIT), and phthalates. As part of our mission to provide the greenest formulas possible, we are working hard to remove this ingredient from our portfolio.
Although it's most widely known as benzyl alcohol, the aromatic alcohol also goes by a few other names, such as benzenemethanol or phenylcarbinol. It's derived from fruit, comes in the form of a colourless liquid, and has a slightly sweet scent. As a multifunctional ingredient, you can spot benzyl alcohol on the ingredient label of many different skincare, cosmetic, and personal products, such as moisturizers, lip balms, face washes, and even makeup. According to Wong, it's primarily used in product formulation as a preservative to stop microorganisms from overgrowing in products, which could later lead to an infection.
Benzyl Alcohol is a little different to the other "bad" alcohols. Yes, it's a listed allergen with the EU but it's also a product necessary to keep organic and natural skincare products safe from bacteria. Benzyl Alcohol is found naturally in essential oils like Peru Balsam and is an approved preservative under the COSMOS Organic Certification criteria. It's used by many organic and natural brands (including ourselves) because of this. It allows us to create more active formulations which are natural as many other natural/organic preservative choices are not compatible.
When used in the correct, low concentration it's regarded as safe, so we regard this as an 'OK' alcohol. Though if you have sensitive skin you should always patch test to make sure it's ok for you.
Why do we use Benzyl Alcohol?
Dermatologist Jessica Krant, MD, of Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York says that preservatives actually do have an important role and deserve a place in your skincare products. "Preservatives are vital for any product that we want to last more than a few days in the bottle—and not have to keep in the refrigerator," she explains. "They help to keep germs out and to keep the products from turning rancid or discoloured."
What % of Benzyl Alcohol is in Sophic?
Our Cleansers contain 0.4%. Our products with the preservative system Adansonia Digitata contain just 0.015%. Very small amounts.