Skip to content

So Sodium Benzoate is going to kill us but Benzoic Acid is ok……….

June 4, 2016

So Sodium Benzoate is produced by reacting Benzoic Acid with Sodium Hydroxide to form the Sodium  SALT of the Benzoic Acid.  It makes no sense for the Natural News article (September 2011) to claim that Benzoic Acid is OK as it appears in fruits in low levels but Sodium Benzoate is bad because it is man made because when used in a formulation Sodium Benzoate actually becomes Benzoic Acid and Sodium Salt.

So either Benzoic Acid is bad in this situation or it isn’t.

Here is my advice to customers who have brands and are confused about whether Sodium Benzoate is right for them:


If Benzoic Acid is bad then there would need to be a health warning on fruits and vegetables, especially berries and apples (which naturally contain around 0.05-0.1% of this).


It is true that the ingredient is man made rather than being extracted from fruit but with such a simple chemical as this there really would be no difference in risk factor or biological activity.

With regards to its potential as a carcinogen that is unlikely given its GRAS status (generally regarded as safe).  There were no adverse effects found in humans at doses of 647-825 mg/kg per day when trialled.

If a person were to use 100g of moisturiser per day they would be exposed to a maximum of 0.5g in total all over their body.

If they weighed 50Kg this would equate to an exposure of 10mg/ per Kg.

If the person weighted 100Kg the exposure would be 5mg/ per Kg.

The average apple weighs 150g and 0.05% of this is Sodium Benzoate giving an exposure of 0.075g so they would need to eat the equivalent of 6.6 apples to get the same exposure to Benzoic Acid per day via that fruit.   However, given that when we eat a product everything gets into the body vs a hugely variable (and usually much lower) percentage of ingredient passes into the body through the skin there is a very good chance that just eating 1-3 portions of fruit a day would put you at higher exposure level to  Benzoate than the cosmetic.

It is very difficult to avoid the use of preservatives in cosmetics because cosmetics are just so nutritious for microbes.  I generally suggest to customers that are wondering about preservatives to try leaving a yoghurt or milk based product out on the kitchen table for a few days and see what happens.   Mould generally grows after 2-5 days depending on the environment, bacteria is less easy to spot but is still there.  It only takes 48 hours of being un-protected for a cosmetic to become unsuitable to use in terms of micro.  We expect our cosmetics to last for months if not years (2.5 years is the recommended shelf life for a cosmetic).

Clients don’t have to use benzoates and it isn’t as if they are without their risks.  Benzoates can be irritating to the skin because of their microbial activity and can make a product feel tingly if there is no oil phase.  That said they have been used safely for many years and are a low-cost broad-spectrum option available to the Organics market.  There are guidelines of how much we can use in a product to avoid irritation and we do stick to that.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2016 7:12 am

    Hopefully, none of your readers (or anyone else) takes anything written on Natural News as factual.

  2. RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
    June 18, 2016 9:17 am

    Sadly they do Perry. I spend many an hour discussing ‘research’ with people. Those conversations are not getting any easier.

  3. Brynn permalink
    February 20, 2021 9:40 am

    Just want to know where you’re getting your information from. My son has a high intolerance for benzoic acid and other benzene products and it causes him to vomit if he has so much as some lemon juice in a salad dressing. I’ve been searching and searching and searching and I can’t find the levels of benzoic acid in apples anywhere. And I’ve input the information in as many ways as I can think of. If you have a chart or breakdown of some sort depicting levels in various foods, I would love to get my hands on it!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 2, 2021 5:39 pm

      It was a long time ago when I wrote this and at that point I wasn’t printing my reference lists but I do now. There’s lots of information and many scientific papers outlining the benzene chemistry of fruit and from what I can see, benzoic acid levels increase in apples that are exposed to certain microbes so it looks like apples use this as their own preservative. The point of the blog was to show that the chemistry is naturally occurring and that it is illogical to demonise one half of the equation and not the other when the two things exist in a pH dependent equilibrium. I didn’t intend them to quantify how much was present in each fruit or under what circumstances so it’s unlikely my research would have helped you anyway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: