Skin Care

Terpenes in Soap & Hygiene Products

Petar Petrov
Written by Petar Petrov

We all know about the various benefits of different terpenes, from their anti-oxidant, to their anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, mood-lifting, and anxiolytic properties. But how do those properties translate to hygiene products?

Terpene Use in Cosmetics Over the Years

For starters, the fact that between 1980 and 2003, a study identified “990 granted patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office related to the use of essential oils and terpenics/terpenoids compounds in the cosmetic and perfumery sectors,” sectors which definitely have some meeting points with the hygiene one, is certainly promising. [1] These applications include skin protection against “external influences like sunlight, X- or other active rays, corrosive materials, bacteria, insect stings,” as well as hair growth and care for hair and manicure and pedicure compositions.

Terpenes Absorption by the Skin

And in terms of terpenes’ skincare applications in particular, an important question is bound to arise—how are terpenes absorbed by the skin?

It turns out, terpenes are absorbed by the skin the most when they are in an essential oil form.

Current Research

Dr. Burns, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, investigated the possible uses of terpenes for the skin, and his findings were more than promising. [2]

They suggest terpenes have “the potential to protect fragile epidermal and mucosal tissue and to treat a wide range of dermatological and mucosal conditions,” including “oral and gastrointestinal mucositis resulting from radiation and chemotherapy treatment, eczema, canker sores, dry, cracked and dehydrated skin, burns and excessive scaring, and erythema and inflammation caused by UV exposure and oxidative damage.”


Terpinolene may be one of those terpenes that tend to fly under the radar because it’s not usually found in ample quantities in most cannabis cultivars, however, it’s one of the most famous terpenes in soaps and cleaning products because of its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties [3], as well as its ability to repel pests. [4]


Limonene is quite widespread in detergent products because of its fresh smell and ability to remove various types of stains effectively, yet in a gentle manner. While these properties aren’t health benefits per se, limonene is considered a more natural, greener alternative to other cleaning agents, which still impacts our health, be it indirectly.

As our understanding of terpenes grows, along with the applications of cannabinoids in topical products, we will probably see more and more terpenes being used for the benefit of our skin, hygiene, appearance, and all-around well-being.



  1. Da Silva-Santos et al, The Use of Essential Oils and Terpenics/Terpenoids in Cosmetics and Perfumery, Perfumer & Flavorist, Vol. 30 November/December 2005
  2. Burns, Use of Terpenes to promote healing, rejuvenation, and protection of skin and mucosal epithelium, NYU Langone Medical Center
  3. Park SN et al, Antimicrobial effect of linalool and α-terpineol against periodontopathic and cariogenic bacteria, Anaerobe.2012 Jun;18(3):369-72, Epub 2012 Apr 17; Journal Impact Factor = 2.704; Times Cited = 150
  4. Wang JL et al, Evaluation of monoterpenes for the control of Tribolium castaneum (Herbst) and Sitophilus zeamaise Motschulsky, Nat Prod Res.2009;23(12):1080-8; Journal Impact Factor = 1.828; Times Cited = 48

Image Credits: Pruf Cultivar

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Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov

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