Is Citronella a Carcinogen? Dispelling the myths and examining the evidence

Citronella is a popular ingredient in perfumes and fragrances due to its refreshing and citrusy scent. However, there have been concerns and misconceptions about its safety, particularly in relation to its potential carcinogenic properties. In this article, we aim to shed light on the subject and provide an expert analysis of the available evidence to determine whether citronella poses a risk as a carcinogen.

Understanding Citronella: Composition and Use

Citronella is a natural essential oil extracted from several species of Cymbopogon grasses, primarily Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus. It is known for its strong, lemon-like fragrance and is commonly used in personal care products, candles and insect repellents. Citronella oil contains several compounds, including citronellal, geraniol and citronellol, which contribute to its distinctive aroma.

As a fragrance ingredient, citronella provides a pleasant scent and is often used to add a fresh and uplifting note to perfumes and fragrances. Its versatility and effectiveness as an insect repellent have made it a popular choice for outdoor products.

Carcinogenic Concerns: Examining the Scientific Evidence

There have been claims that citronella may be a carcinogen, leading to consumer concern. However, it is important to evaluate these claims based on scientific evidence and regulatory assessments. The available research does not support the notion that citronella is a carcinogen.

In a comprehensive review conducted by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), an organization that evaluates the safety of fragrance ingredients, citronella oil was found to be non-carcinogenic. IFRA reviewed several studies and concluded that there is no evidence to suggest a carcinogenic potential associated with the use of citronella in perfumes and fragrances.

In addition, regulatory bodies such as the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have also evaluated the safety of citronella. Both organizations have not classified citronella as a carcinogen, further supporting its safety for use in fragrance applications.

Safety Considerations and Proper Use

While citronella is generally considered safe, it is important to follow good manufacturing practices and adhere to recommended usage levels to ensure product safety. Fragrance formulators and manufacturers must follow industry guidelines and regulations, including those provided by organizations such as IFRA, to ensure that the concentration of citronella and other fragrance ingredients is within safe limits.

It should be noted that some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to certain fragrance ingredients, including citronella. In rare cases, skin irritation or allergic reactions may occur. It is therefore advisable to patch test or consult a dermatologist if you have a known sensitivity to fragrances.

Conclusion: Citronella’s safety profile

Based on the available scientific evidence and regulatory assessments, citronella does not pose a significant risk as a carcinogen in perfumes and fragrances. Concerns and claims about its carcinogenic potential are not supported by the research conducted to date.
As with any fragrance ingredient, it is important to use citronella responsibly and in accordance with industry guidelines. By following proper usage recommendations and considering individual sensitivities, consumers can continue to enjoy the refreshing scent of citronella in perfumes and fragrance products without undue concern for its safety.

It is important to stay informed and rely on reputable sources when evaluating the safety of fragrance ingredients to ensure that decisions are based on accurate and reliable information.


Is citronella a carcinogen?

Citronella is not considered a carcinogen. It is a natural essential oil derived from certain species of grass and is commonly used as an insect repellent. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that citronella causes cancer in humans.

Are there any health risks associated with citronella?

Citronella is generally considered safe for use in humans when used as directed. However, some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions when exposed to citronella oil. It is always recommended to perform a patch test before applying citronella products to the skin and discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur.

Can citronella cause respiratory problems?

Inhaling the scent of citronella is generally safe for most people and does not typically cause respiratory problems. However, direct inhalation of concentrated citronella oil or prolonged exposure to high concentrations of citronella vapor may irritate the respiratory system in sensitive individuals. It is advisable to use citronella products in well-ventilated areas.

Is it safe to use citronella around pets?

Citronella is generally safe for use around pets, but caution should be exercised. While citronella is not toxic to most pets, it can cause irritation or allergic reactions in some animals. It is best to consult with a veterinarian before using citronella products on or around pets, especially cats, as they are more sensitive to certain essential oils.

Is citronella safe for use during pregnancy?

When used in moderation and according to instructions, citronella is generally considered safe for use during pregnancy. However, it is always advisable for pregnant individuals to consult with their healthcare provider before using any new products, including those containing citronella, to ensure safety and avoid any potential risks.