Sodium Benzoate: What Is It, Cosmetic Uses & Side Effects

This article was last updated on: July 24, 2023

Navigating the world of personal care products, such as skincare and hair care, can sometimes feel like a journey through a dense forest. Complicated scientific names and cryptic terminologies on packaging labels can make ingredient lists seem like riddles in a foreign language, particularly for novices in the cosmetic arena.

One such ingredient that often appears within this labyrinth of chemical names is Sodium Benzoate. The name itself might evoke a sense of intimidating scientific complexity or portray an unfathomably abstract concept. However, beneath this façade of complex terminology lies a common substance used in numerous cosmetic products.

Sodium Benzoate, as elusive as its name might sound, is a frequent constituent in many personal care products. This article endeavors to pierce the veil of ambiguity surrounding this ingredient, delving into the depths of its nature, purpose, and role within the cosmetic industry.

What is Sodium Benzoate?

In the realm of cosmetics, Sodium Benzoate is a known and widely used entity. Also recognized as Benzoate of Soda, this ingredient primarily serves as a preservative in various cosmetic formulations. Due to its function as a bacteriostatic and fungistatic agent under acidic conditions, it inhibits the growth and proliferation of harmful microorganisms within products, extending their shelf-life while maintaining product integrity.

Further exploiting its properties, Sodium Benzoate is used as an anticorrosive, safeguarding metallic components in cosmetics packaging from corrosion, thus preventing potential contamination. Also, its application as a fragrance ingredient is not uncommon, contributing to the overall sensory experience offered by a product.

Typically, Sodium Benzoate is used at concentrations of 0.1% to 0.5%.

Who Can Use Sodium Benzoate?

Sodium Benzoate’s versatile nature makes it suitable for usage across a spectrum of skin types. Whether your skin type is dry, oily, combination, or sensitive, products containing Sodium Benzoate can be incorporated into your skincare routine. This is due to its non-irritating nature and low risk of causing sensitivity.

Ethically sourced and synthesized without the use of any animal-derived components, Sodium Benzoate falls within the category of ingredients that are suitable for those adhering to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Its application in cosmetics provides a viable choice for consumers seeking cruelty-free and vegan-friendly products.

For pregnant and breastfeeding women, Sodium Benzoate is generally considered safe for use. It does not interfere with hormonal functions or fetal development, making it a reliable ingredient for expectant or nursing mothers. As with all ingredients, however, the general recommendation is to seek professional medical advice before incorporating new products into your routine during these sensitive periods.

Sodium Benzoate’s Cosmetic Uses

Sodium Benzoate has several important roles in cosmetic formulations, owing to its multi-faceted profile. Each function comes with its specific benefit, thereby enriching the overall performance and value of the product.

  • Preservative: Sodium Benzoate’s most notable function is as a preservative. It prevents the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, yeast, and mold in products, thereby extending their shelf life. This function is achieved due to its ability to lower the pH level of products, creating an environment that is unfavorable for microbial growth. The inhibitory action against these unwanted microorganisms safeguards the products from spoilage and degradation, thereby maintaining their efficacy and safety for a longer duration.
  • Anticorrosive: Sodium Benzoate also acts as an anticorrosive agent. In this role, it protects the metallic components of packaging from corrosion. Corrosion, a chemical reaction that can degrade metal over time, can potentially lead to product contamination. Sodium Benzoate neutralizes this risk by forming a protective barrier over the metal surfaces, thereby preventing the oxidation process that causes corrosion. This not only ensures product safety but also sustains the aesthetics and reliability of packaging.
  • Fragrance: An often overlooked role of Sodium Benzoate is its contribution to the fragrance of cosmetic products. While it does not impart a distinct aroma itself, it acts as a stabilizer, preserving and enhancing the scent profiles of other fragrance ingredients in the formulation. It helps to extend the longevity and intensity of fragrances, thereby improving the overall sensory experience of the product.

Sodium Benzoate Potential Side Effects

It’s crucial to highlight that reactions to skincare ingredients, including Sodium Benzoate, can substantially vary from person to person. This variability is predominantly due to the uniqueness of individual skin types and skin sensitivity levels. Factors such as genetic makeup, lifestyle habits, and environmental influences contribute to this diversity. To better understand how skincare ingredients may influence your skin, you may want to find your skin type.

Potential side effects of Sodium Benzoate, although rare, may include:

  • Allergic reactions: In very rare cases, Sodium Benzoate may cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of a potential allergic response could manifest as redness, itchiness, or hives.
  • Skin irritation: For those with extremely sensitive skin, Sodium Benzoate could potentially induce mild skin irritation.

If you experience any of these side effects while using a product containing Sodium Benzoate, it’s advisable to immediately cease using the product and consult a dermatologist. They can provide guidance on how to treat the reaction and advice on alternative products that may be more suited to your skin type and sensitivity level.

It’s important to note that adverse reactions to Sodium Benzoate are rare. In the grand scheme of cosmetic ingredients, Sodium Benzoate is regarded as safe and effective for its intended uses. Its benefits in products, such as increasing shelf life and enhancing fragrance, far outweigh its potential for causing side effects.

The conversation about potential side effects brings us to the importance of patch testing when it comes to using cosmetic products. Patch testing is a method of testing a new skincare product for potential adverse reactions. Our patch testing guide will provide you with a step-by-step process on how to properly conduct a patch test. By taking this additional step, you can ensure a safer skincare journey.

Comedogenic Rating

Sodium Benzoate is assigned a comedogenic rating of 0. This ranking signifies that it is non-comedogenic and shouldn’t contribute to clogged pores or acne formation. The reason for such a low rating relates to its molecular structure and function. As a preservative and pH adjuster, Sodium Benzoate operates on a microbial level to maintain product integrity; it does not influence sebum production or skin cell turnover, factors which can directly contribute to pore clogging. This makes Sodium Benzoate suitable and safe to use even for individuals with acne-prone or breakout-prone skin types.


The universe of personal care products is a synergistic blend of active and non-active ingredients, each contributing to the overall efficacy and performance of the formulation. Sodium Benzoate falls under the latter category. As a non-active ingredient, it doesn’t produce an immediate visual impact on your skin, but it’s crucial for the overall formulation, ensuring the product stays safe, effective, and functional over time.

Despite its lack of direct interaction with the skin’s appearance, Sodium Benzoate is a prevalent ingredient in many cosmetics products. It is far from an avant-garde component; rather, it is a tried and trusted player in the industry owing to its preservative, anticorrosive, and fragrance-enhancing functions.

If you harbor any concerns about Sodium Benzoate, it’s crucial to remember that its primary role is in maintaining product integrity and safety rather than altering your skin’s physiology. It is generally safe for all skin types, with a low incidence of side effects. However, if you have ultra-sensitive skin or a known allergy to Sodium Benzoate, you may want to opt for products formulated without this ingredient.

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