C12-15 alkyl benzoate is a synthetic ingredient that is used as an emollient and texture enhancing agent in a variety of cosmetics and personal care products.
C12-15 alkyl benzoate is a low molecular weight ester of benzoic acid and long chain alcohols. Benzoic acid is a natural ingredient that can be obtained from several types of fruits and vegetables, such as cranberries, prunes, plums, cinnamon, ripe cloves, and apples. The “C12-15” in the ingredient name indicates that the alcohols have carbon chain lengths from 12 to 15. C12-15 alkyl benzoate is a clear, oil-soluble, low viscosity liquid.
In cosmetics and personal care products, C12-15 alkyl benzoate functions as an emollient, texture enhancer, and antimicrobial agent. It is used in a wide variety of products, such as sunscreens, baby products, bath products, antiperspirants and deodorants, eye makeup, lipstick, foundations and tinted moisturizers, shaving products, hair styling products, and more.
As an emollient, C12-15 alkyl benzoate helps to keep the skin moist and supple by reducing water loss from the epidermis (the outer layer of skin). Emollients act as lubricants and occlusive agents. A lubricant reduces friction when anything rubs against the skin, while an occlusive agent forms a protective, invisible film on the surface of skin that helps to slow down water loss. These functions allow C12-15 alkyl benzoate to keep the skin moisturized and also help the skin to repair.
While all skin types can benefit from emollients like C12-15 alkyl benzoate, emollients are very beneficial for those who have dry, rough and/or flaky skin. Emollients can treat these symptoms, leaving the skin looking and feeling soft and smooth. In addition, emollients can benefit those that suffer from conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or other inflammatory skin condition.
C12-15 alkyl benzoate can also be classified as a texture enhancer. It imparts a soft and velvety feel to skin and has excellent spreadability. C12-15 alkyl benzoate also functions as an effective thickener when added to gels, creams, and lotions. It is added to pressed powders because of its ability to bind other ingredients together. C12-15 alkyl benzoate has excellent solubility in oil and is often used in sunscreens because it helps keep the active ingredients dispersed throughout the formula. Lastly, C12-15 alkyl benzoate can be used for the extension and fixation of fragrance.
It is also claimed that C12-15 alkyl benzoate has antimicrobial properties, however, there is limited data on which microorganisms this ingredient is effective against.
The safety of C12-15 alkyl benzoate and other alkyl benzoates has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. Due to the low water solubility of long-chain alkyl benzoates, the Panel reasoned that these ingredients were unlikely to be absorbed into the system circulation. At concentrations used in cosmetic products, C12-15 alkyl benzoate and other long-chain alkyl benzoates are not eye or skin irritants. These compounds are also not dermal sensitizers. C12-15 alkyl benzoate is not mutagenic. Overall, the Panel concluded that C12-15 alkyl benzoate and other alkyl benzoates are safe for use in cosmetics.
Since C12-15 alkyl benzoate is an ester that is composed of various long-chain alcohols, this ingredient is often misunderstood to be bad for the skin. It is true that some alcohols, like ethyl or rubbing alcohol, can be extremely drying to the skin. However, quite the opposite is true for C12-15 alkyl benzoate, which is well known to effectively condition and soften the skin and hair.
References: Medical News Today, “Emollients: How can we use them?”, 2017, Cosmetics Info, “C12-15 alkyl benzoate”.