Citronellol In Skin Care, Cosmetics, & More

I’ve been researching a ton of ingredients over the years, many of which are VERY good for your skin (this one here for example). You can never be too knowledgeable when it comes to ingredients and your skin. Another commonly used ingredient in many skin care products is citronellol. It is mainly used and known for its light, sweet, floral aroma. Here we’ll take a closer look at citronellol, its origin, and most common uses.

citronellol chemical makeup

The Facts About Citronellol

You might want to take a close look around your cabinets and dig up some cosmetics and skin products to check out the labels. I can almost guarantee that you’ll find this ingredient in quite a few of the products in your bag of cosmetics. Let’s cover the origin of this ingredient before covering the benefits.

The Origin

Citronellol is a naturally occurring ingredient in plants, classified as a terpene. Actually, it is also commonly known as dihydrogeraniol and is classified as an acyclic monoterpenoid. The terpenes form a group of organic compounds which are naturally found in plants and they are responsible for the scent of the plant. These are the plant’s natural defense against predators and the main thing that attracts insects that pollinate the flowers.

Most terpenoids have strong scents, and citronellol is no exception to that rule. As far as where it comes from and the various forms, this is found in two enantiomeric forms, (+)-citronellol is found in species like lemongrass, and (-)-citronellol, usually found in roses and geraniums. The citronellol we are talking about here is the (+)-citronellol, and it is most commonly produced by hydrogenation of geraniol derived from the citronella (lemongrass) plant.

The Uses

This ingredient has a strong, fresh lemony scent and because of this characteristic, it’s mostly used in the cosmetics industry. The fragrance of citronellol is used to enhance the fragrance of other floral aromas, such as the rose fragrance.

The Effects

The topical application of citronellol does not show any irritating effects on the skin. The citronellol molecule is unable to penetrate deeply into the skin, and it stays on the surface, only carrying the fragrance and not having any deep effect on the skin below the surface.

It’s this desirable property along with the sweet, fresh, floral aroma that makes citronellol adequate to be used as a fragrance in shampoos, creams, soaps, lotions, and other skin care products that millions of Americans use today.

Another effect that citronellol has is repelling insects and as such it has been used for a very long time. Citronellol is the primary ingredient in citronella oil and citronella candles, both used as an insecticide repellent approved by the FDA.

Toxicity Levels

Citronellol is Generally Rated As Safe (GRAS) to be used in the cosmetics products and as an additive in food. According to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), the use of citronellol should be moderate, as it is a possible allergen. If you find yourself having allergy issues, then I suggest that you reduce the frequency of your contact with this and see if that helps.

There is a concern related to the use of citronellol and that specific concern is due to the structure of the molecule. When exposed to oxygen, the molecule oxidizes and can become an irritant, especially those with sensitive skin.

The possibility for allergic reaction due to citronellol means that people that are prone to allergies or have very sensitive skin should always perform skin patch testing before starting to use products that have a higher dose of citronellol.


The fresh, sweet, floral aroma of many cosmetics and skin care products is achieved by adding citronellol. This ingredient is mainly found in lemongrass and is often used in personal care products. It is also used as a mosquito and general insect repellent in citronella oil and citronella candles.

The people that have allergies and very sensitive skin should always do a skin patch testing when introducing new products into their routine. You must do this to check if your skin is sensitive to citronellol. In many cases, this ingredient can irritate your skin – be careful.

Now if you’re looking for products, I suggest trying checking out this page here for a list of those that I recommend.