Is Linalool a Skincare Ingredient That You Should Be Avoiding?

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When you take a look at the ingredient list of a skincare product, what are your eyes drawn to first? Chances are, you’ll focus on the first 5-10 ingredients listed. After all, these are what make up the majority of that product – any ingredients towards the end of that list are used in such minute quantities that they surely don’t make much of a difference to anything, right?

Wrong. This brings us to linalool, an ingredient that’s often tacked onto the end of an ingredient list. Granted, it’s only used in very small concentrations, but what exactly is it, and why is it in your skincare? Let’s find out just how concerned you need to be the next time you spot linalool in your favorite products.

What is Linalool?

Linlool molecular structure

It surprises many to learn that linalool is actually a natural compound. It is classed as a terpene alcohol, with terpenes being a group of substances that are produced by a variety of plants. Terpenes help to give plants their strong fragrance, which, in turn, protects the plant by deterring pests. This is why terpenes are most commonly extracted from highly scented plants, including lavender, mint, cinnamon, citrus fruits, and even cannabis.

Whether you realize it or not, linalool, along with other terpenes, are already a part of your life. While it’s true that those who use cannabis or regularly inhale lavender oil are exposed to more terpenes, studies show that even the average person consumes around 2g of linalool each year through their food [1].

Should you be worried? When it comes to the linalool that you consume, no. The terpene doesn’t accumulate in the body, negating any long-term effects. However, if you regularly apply linalool to your skin, then things are a little more complicated…

The Effects of Linalool on the Skin

So, what exactly does linalool do to your skin, and why is it included in so many products?

Reduces Inflammation

One of the main benefits that linalool brings to the skin is its anti-inflammatory properties [2]. It is able to significantly reduce inflammation in the skin, which, in turn, could help with so many inflammatory skin conditions, along with skin aging.

What’s interesting to note is that synthetically produced linalool doesn’t have this effect. Instead, only the natural form of the ingredient, which can be found in essential oils, boasts those anti-inflammatory properties.

Ladies protecting skin from the sun

Can Help to Treat Acne

As mentioned, linalool can reduce inflammation in the skin. This already goes a long way in helping to prevent acne breakouts, since inflammation in the pores is what triggers those pimples.

Additionally, many of the essential oils that are used to kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin, such as thyme oil, contain high levels of terpenes, particularly linalool. Although science still needs to confirm whether or not linalool on its own is effective at destroying the p.acnes bacteria, the link so far seems strong.

That said, those who suffer from acne shouldn’t start reaching for the ingredient just yet. Linalool may also be problematic for acne-prone skin, which we’ll soon be discussing in more detail.

Has a Refreshing Floral Scent

Woman smelling flowers outdoors

Skincare products are always so much more appealing when they have a pleasant aroma. However, many are now wary when they see the term “fragrance” on an ingredient list – many of these compounds are known for causing skin irritation.

One way that companies get around this is to use linalool instead of a fragrance. Its naturally floral and slightly spicy aroma immediately gives a formula a beautifully refreshing scent.

Anti-Insect Properties

Although most people don’t look for skincare products that can double up as an insect repellant, this is still a useful property to have. Thanks to its natural scent, linalool is able to offer protection against many insects. While the EPA notes that linalool isn’t effective against mosquitos, recent research proves them wrong.

That said, most of the studies that have been carried out so far have made use of 100% linalool, rather than natural linalool in an essential oil. Therefore, while the chemical itself may have insect-repelling properties, it’s difficult to ascertain whether or not it still offers these benefits in its natural form.

Other Therapeutic Uses for Linalool Essential Oils

Linalool’s skincare benefits may be limited, but this doesn’t mean that the terpene doesn’t have its uses in the medical field.

Let’s start by looking at nervous system disorders, such as epilepsy. Studies have found that the way in which linalool exposure affects brain activity can help to treat the seizures caused by this disease. Not only that, but it helps with pain too by blocking pain signals from the brain.

With stress levels rife these days, linalool is also revered for being an anxiety treatment. Studies have been carried out on rats and mice, who were exposed to the terpene through inhalation of a vapor, after having stress induced. Results showed that not only did stress levels dramatically drop down to near-normal, compared to the control group, but this also gave the immune system a boost, meaning improved overall health and disease resistance [3].

It’s also worth noting that linalool has sedative effects. Many use essential oils containing the terpene to help them to sleep, with lavender oils being particularly popular for this – it’s a great compound for calming the brain and the body down.

The Side Effects of Linalool

So far, linalool doesn’t seem quite so bad. However, when it comes to safety, things aren’t quite so clear. Linalool is classed as a sensitizing ingredient, meaning that it can irritate sensitive skin.

It’s also known for oxidizing quickly once it comes into contact with the air. Although many companies include other ingredients in their cosmetics formulas to slow this oxidization down, it still happens. As a result, linalool can cause some serious damage to skin cells, even accelerating the effects of aging.

Pretty woman with flowers in her hair


What is linalool good for?

Linalool is good for multiple things – it’s an anti-inflammatory, it reduces anxiety and stress, it improves brain function, and it is a useful treatment for many health conditions.

Is linalool toxic to humans?

Although safe in small amounts, linalool can be toxic to humans in high concentrations.

Is linalool bad for your skin?

It all depends on your skin type. While this terpene alcohol is tolerated by many, linalool may cause irritation to sensitive skin.


Linalool isn’t an ingredient that you can easily avoid – it’s a natural component of some of the most fragrant essential oils out there. However, while it may have its place in medicine and therapeutic treatments, it’s not the best ingredient for your skin. Its potential side effects could be forgiven if its benefits outweigh the risks, but they simply don’t, especially when it comes to synthetically produced linalool. While essential oils containing linalool don’t need to be shunned if you haven’t yet experienced skin issues from the ingredient, it would be advisable to stay away from products containing synthetic linalool as an additive.



Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.