What Is It?

Camphor is a white waxy crystalline solid. In cosmetics and personal care products, Camphor is used in the formulation of bath products, cleansing products, makeup, nail products, personal cleanliness products, skin care products and shaving cream. Camphor can also be added directly to food.

Why Is It Used?

Camphor imparts an odor to a product and is added to ethyl alcohol (grain alcohol) to make it unsuitable for drinking. Camphor may also be used to soften synthetic polymers. In OTC drug products intended to be placed on the skin, Camphor, is used to relieve pain.

Scientific Facts

Camphor is a naturally occurring compound derived from the wood of the camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora. Camphor can also be produced synthetically. Camphor is often used for its scent, and as an ingredient in cooking (especially in India).

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes Camphor in its list of flavoring agents and related substances that are permitted for direct addition to food. Camphor is also approved for use as an active ingredient in Over-The-Counter (OTC) external analgesics, topical antitussive drug products and in anorectal products at concentrations of 0.1 to 3%. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) has deferred evaluation of this ingredient because the safety has been assessed by FDA. This deferral of review is according to the provisions of the CIR Procedures.

The International Programme on Chemical Safety has developed a monograph on the uses and potential effects of Camphor. Fairly large oral doses of Camphor are needed before adverse effects are observed. Carcinogenicity tests have been negative and Camphor is not mutagenic in bacteria.

Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Camphor

Camphor may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.

EU Cosmetic Regulation

Health Canada permits the use of Camphor in cosmetics and personal care products at concentrations less than or equal to 3%. 

More Scientific Information

Camphor is a ketone. In cosmetics and personal care products, Camphor functions as a fragrance ingredient, denaturant and plasticizer. It is also used in OTC drug products (external analgesics, topical antitussives, anorectal products).


Find out more about the regulation of over-the-counter drugs by the Food and Drug Administration

Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration