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Sodium Benzoate

Today's Chemical:

Sodium Benzoate

EWG Risk Score:


What is it:

Sodium Benzoate is a preservative.

Safety Info:

  • Known to be a neurotoxin to aquatic animals.  (Source)
  • Is toxic/lethal at high doses in humans.  (Source)
  • Animal studies have shown some developmental abnormalities (Source)
  • Rats and mice given moderate doses of sodium benzoate showed decreased weight and some endocrine disruption (Source) however, at low doeses there were no effects.
  • Animal studies have shown it to be toxic to the liver at moderate doses (Source)
  • When combined with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or citric acid, it forms benzene, a known carcinogen.  This is a common problem in soft drinks. 
  • One study found that sodium benzoate created free radicals in the body, destorying mitochondrial DNA, adding to the body's aging process.  (Source)

Type of products it's in:

Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face and body lotions, mouthwash

Some Brands that use this ingredient:


Oblige by Nature

Kiss my Face




Steph's Opinon:

I am somewhat wary of this ingredient, however, after sifting through hundreds of studies, I haven't found much evidence that it acts that way.  It seems as though the body is able to break it down easily and flush out of the system.  Studies have deemed it safe as used in cosmetic applications because it's used in small amounts.  However, some people may be sensitive to it, and if you are hormonally sensitive or imbalanced, I would limit your exposure as much as you can.   Additionally, make sure that there is no Vitamin C present with it, as it can form the carcinogen benzene in its presence.    The bottom line is, avoid it if you can, but if you can't find a safer alternative, it's safe in limited amounts.  In foods, definitely avoid it.  If you've eaten something with vitamin C, and then eat something with sodium benzoate, it can create benzene in your body. 

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Reader Comments (19)

Is it only Sodium Benzoate and Vitamin C that are a concern? What about Sodium Benzoate used in a formula with various citrus essential oils?

Mon, October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSnowPumpkin

Citrus essential oils actually don't contain vitamin C, just the juice. So, they wouldn't have the same reaction.

Wed, January 18, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

This is in hylands cough and cold. Not safe???

Thu, February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

So which one is the better of two evils concerning polysorbate 20 & sodium benzoate in baby wipes?

Wed, April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTasha

what about the use of sodium benzoate in nkh children? Do you know if there is enough evidence to show that it lowers the glycine levels in either the csf or plasma?

Sat, May 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersusi

Some Ava Anderson products contain Geogard Ultra, which (in my limited understanding) is or is very closely linked to sodium benzoate... what a shame! Should we be looking out for this harmless sounded "Geogard Ulta" as well?

Wed, October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTierney

Geogard Ultra shouldn't be listed on any product labels, as it's the brand name of the preservative, and not the INCI nomenclature of the chemicals within. It's not correct/legal to label it that way. Geogard Ultra is sodium benzoate and gluconolactone, and those chemicals should be disclosed on the label.

Sat, November 10, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I bought some Hyland's cough syrup for my kids thinking I was using a natural alternative. I didn't read it closely enough... it has sodium benzoate in it. So many "natural" companies are using this now. :(

Mon, December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

What do you think about Juice Beauty's Simply pure Chamomile cleanser? It does
Mix vitamin C w/ sodium Benzate?!

Plz advise. Thank you very much.

Mon, January 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteriris2012

Yep, the product you have linked to above would have the potential to form benzene in small amounts over time, due to the presence of vitamin C and sodium benzoate together.

Wed, January 16, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Hi - in reference to Tasha's comment above and this entry...I'm looking for a new baby wipe for my 2-year old (use them on hands, bum, clothes, anything that needs to be cleaned, etc). Shocked to learn the extent of the risks with polysorbate 20, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, etc...what's even more disturbing is 7th Generation just changed their baby wipes/formula and are using more sodium benzoate in their wipes now. I only found one wipe that was truly all natural the "water wipes" from Irreland, but people reported mold, which is also too much of a risk for our family and existing health/developmental issues. I found Treehouse from the UK, but they are discontinuing their wipes and I cannot locate them anywhere. All the other "natural" wipes have horrid ingredients. Im already concerned about my son's developmental issues and he's got every symptom of Sensory Perception Disorder. Unfortunately with our chaotic schedule I need a disposable baby wipe...are there any truly natural alternatives you know of, or if forced to, what brand/ingredients are the lesser of all evils? Thank you!!!!

Mon, February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterZorka

I recently have been researching and found my child's hair detangling spray " Johnson's no more tangles" has both sodium benzoate and citric acid I'm it - is this safe to use on a child?

Thu, September 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

I just bought a full line of "natural products " Baby bee shampoo and wash for my kids out of wallgreens ,and one of the components listed is sodium benzoate, so my question is >
Even when you look for and alternative healthy choice ,there's no way out !!!in the bottle of the product, say 99.9% natural ....
what more a consumer can do when the products listed as safety or natural have also this ingredients inside....

Fri, January 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteramiclar

Would this also not be safe to use with oils high in vit c?

Tue, September 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIrina

Hi what is the alternative for sodium benzoate and gluconolactone if I want to make a natural face cream?
do you have recommendation for natural preservative?

Sun, December 6, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdana gat

Hello, what about NEODEFEND, is it safe as a preservative in a water based scalp spray ?


Tue, April 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteroren

I just purchased the shampoo ATTITUDE sold in Target stores as recommended by EWG for safety and it has sodium benzoate and citric acid. Have you read their marketing? " No carcinogens in their products allowed" What is the truth then?

Thu, November 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Citric acid is NOT the same as Vitamin C.

Thu, July 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermichelley

I recommend Free & Clear Products to my patients who tested sensitive to Sodium Benzoate

Fri, November 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJulia Fuchs

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