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Cleaning Up Skincare: Using Terpenes in Topicals

We know that terpenes are all about flavor, but did you know they can improve the quality of your skin too? 

Reading Time - 8 min

A topical is any product that’s directly applied to the skin. Obviously, that means lotion and muscle balms, but what about makeup? Do you include soap and shaving products in that group as well? Absolutely! The world of topicals is surprisingly vast, and terpenes are going to give the industry a much needed makeover. 

Now, more than ever, consumers want clean cosmetics with ingredients that provide multiple benefits. Brands like Fifth & Root are paving the way for these kinds of products by using botanicals, minerals, and terpenes. The result? Products that improve your skin, overall wellness, and even your mood.

Topicals are no longer just about making your skin look good. They’re about making you feel good too. Keep reading to find out why terpenes are the next big thing in the cosmetics industry. 


Shaving Products can benefit from terpenes - Abstrax Tech

We know you’re busy, so here are the highlights of what we’re covering today:

  • The FDA hasn’t updated cosmetic regulations since 1938. So, you can find thousands of harmful chemical ingredients in topicals today--namely fragrances, aromas, and/or perfumes.
  • Terpenes are the safest, natural way to infuse topicals with unique scents.
  • Depending on the terpenes you use, your products will become more powerful antioxidants, antimicrobials, anti-inflammatories, moisturizers, and more.
  • By using terpenes you can elevate the quality of your skin and your mood at the same time!

Why Ingredients Matter For Topicals

The FDA defines a cosmetic as “a product (excluding pure soap) intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” That’s a lot of products, and surprisingly, federal cosmetic regulations haven’t really been updated since 1938.

There are more than a thousand chemical ingredients used in topical products, and very few of them are actually tested for safety. That means you could be slathering products on your body that aren’t actually good for you.

We won’t list all the potentially harmful ingredients (who has the time?), but there’s one in particular that can be easily substituted for terpenes. 



When you’re reading the scant ingredient label on a topical, you might see fragrance, perfume, parfum, or even just aroma. Basically, it’s whatever chemical they’re using to create an artificial scent. This scent can be made from petroleum or natural materials, but it can include stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives, dyes, and additional solvents. 

Some of these fragrances are made using chemicals that are carcinogenic, known-allergens, and that can cause reproductive complications. That’s why we think more people should be using terpenes to create specific scents!

 Terpenes are giving the cosmetic industry a makeover - Abstrax Tech

What Makes Terpenes So Great For Topicals?

When you use botanically-derived terpenes that are solvent-less, GMO-free, and filler-free, you’re using the purest, and most realistic, scent possible. That’s because terpenes are the organic hydrocarbons already found in most plants. They’re what actually create the scents and flavors that imitation scents are mimicking. 

So, instead of relying on artificial scents that may potentially harm your customers, stick with the original scent! Plus, some terpenes have properties that make them even more helpful for topicals.

When you use terpenes in your topicals, you can add the following benefits to your products!

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic (pain relief)
  • Antioxidant
  • Antibacterial
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antipyretic (cooling)
  • Sedative
  • Anti-fungal
  • Mood elevating
  • Moisturizing 
  • Enhanced penetration
  • Acne-fighting

We know that list might seem a little unbelievable, but believe it! Here are a few specific terpenes you should definitely consider using.



This terpene can be found in black pepper, black caraway, cloves, basil, oregano, and cinnamon. It’s “spicy” like chai, but it’s most memorable for its powerful analgesic and antipyretic properties. Basically, it relieves pain and cools. That makes this spicy yet sweet terpene perfect for soaps, lotions, and muscle rubs.

Beta Caryophyllene for pain relief in topicals - Abstrax TechBeta-Caryophyllene



This slightly woody, floral terpene can be found in chamomile and candeia shrubs. Not only is it anti-inflammatory, an anti-microbial, an antioxidant, and rich in panthenol, it actually promotes relaxation. It’s useful in hair and skincare topicals because of its moisturizing properties. 

Bisabolol is moisturizing for topicals - Abstrax TechBisabolol



If you read that and immediately thought of camphor trees, you’re on the right track. This terpene is found in cinnamomum camphora trees, cumin, and hops and has topical painkilling and anti-inflammatory properties. Its aroma is reminiscent of damp wood and fir needles, and is commonly used in creams, salves, and lotions to calm stressed out skin.

Camphene can soothe stressed out skin - AbstraxTechCamphene



This energizing terpene is a favorite for anyone making products designed to energize and enliven the senses. It’s no surprise that D-Limonene has an in-your-face citrus kick since it’s found in most citrus fruits. One added perk for topicals is that it can enhance the penetration of other terpenes. That makes D-Limonene particularly useful!

D-Limonene can increase topical absorption - AbstraxTech D-Limonene



Looking for something soothing and calming? Linalool is right up your alley. Found in lavender, mint, and birch, it’s no surprise that this terpene has a delicate floral scent. Its powerful sedative effects make this terpene popular in aromatherapy and topical products designed for relaxation.

Linalool is a sedative and great for relaxation - AbstraxTechLinalool



Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes, but that doesn’t make it any less special. Its scent is sweet with a minty balsam feel and can be found in bay, ylang-ylang, mangos, hops, wild thyme, and more! On top of having sedative, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties, it also promotes feelings of relaxation.

Myrcene increases the effectiveness of other terpenes - AbstraxTechMyrcene



If you’re looking for a terpene to tame breakouts, look no further. Terpineol can be found in tea-tree, cageput, and pine and is known for its sweet combination of lilac, flowers, limes, and hint of pine. It has powerful antibacterial properties, making it the perfect addition to acne products.

Terpineol in Topicals - AbstraxTechAlpha-Terpineol


Alpha-Caryophyllene (Humulene)

This potent earthy terpene has a bitter woody overtone but is a fan favorite for anyone who enjoys beer (it’s the main terpene in hops). Unsurprisingly, this terpene promotes feelings of calm and happiness. It’s a powerful analgesic but also an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. You can also find alpha-caryophyllene in sage, ginseng, and coriander. 

Alpha-Caryophyllene is an analgesic - AbstraxTech




You probably guessed from the name, but this terpene is very prevalent in conifer trees like pine (along with rosemary, eucalyptus, and orange peel). Its scent is herbal and turpentine-like with cooling camphoraceous notes. Alpha-pinene is a powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and even has gastroprotective properties.

Alpha-Pinene is a anti-microbial - AbstraxTech


Honestly, this is just a fraction of the many terpenes you could use in topical products. There are topicals with anti-fungal properties, mood-elevating properties, even terpenes with insect repellant properties! Plus, creating custom terpene blends is the easiest way to create a unique scent your customers will remember and love.


Which Topicals Can Benefit From Terpenes?

All of them? Yeah, pretty much any topical can benefit from using terpenes. 

Just by swapping artificial scents for terpenes will make your products safer and more natural. Plus, with the therapeutic properties terpenes possess, they can increase the effectiveness of certain products as well.


Terpenes in Makeup Products

Yes, makeup is first and foremost about the “look.” However, you won’t get many repeat customers if your products don’t smell good and/or if they irritate peoples skin. Elevate your foundation, highlighter, blush, eyeshadow, lipstick, primer, or even your bronzer by using terpenes instead of artificial fragrances.

 Skincare products can use terpenes to enhance benefits - Abstrax Tech

Terpenes in Skincare Products 

This could include everything from lotions, face creams, serums, toners, face masks, or even sunblock. Skincare products are supposed to protect, replenish, and heal skin so that it’s actually healthier! So, if you’re using artificial scents that pose’re kind of moving in the wrong direction.

One brand that’s already utilizing terpenes for their skincare products is Fifth & Root. They use botanical terpenes and adaptogenic plants to create their fresh feel-good, vibe-worthy skincare line, “Our products are infused with pure plant magic so you keep your skin on point and make the most of your mood.”

Read more about how Fifth & Root uses terpenes in their products here!


Terpenes in Hair Removal Products 

With the warmer summer months nearly upon us, you’d better believe customers are thinking about hair removal products. These products (which can include shaving gel, foam, or even wax) are often harsh and can irritate even the hardiest of skin. That’s why using soothing terpenes should be a requirement! Seriously, just take the stress out of shaving and waxing by using terpenes instead of artificial aromas. 


Terpenes in Hair Products 

We’re all guilty of popping open a shampoo bottle in the store just to make sure we like the scent. That’s because no one wants to use hair products that don’t smell good! And if you’re just imagining shampoo and conditioner, you need to think bigger. This category includes scalp treatments, hair oils, hair spray, hair dye, dry shampoo, and more.


Terpenes in Intimate Products 

Any product in this category MUST be safe for obvious reasons. Whether you’re creating a lube, massage oil, or even just some sexy body glitter, safety should come first. That’s why botanical terpenes are perfect for intimate products. They’ll help create the perfect sensual scent without the irritating quality associated with some fragrances. Plus, once someone finds an intimate product they like, they quickly become a repeat customer. 


Terpenes in Topical Bug Repellants

If you’re one of those people that seem to attract swarms of mosquitoes, then topicals are your new best friend. Many bug repellant sprays and creams can be irritating, but now you don’t have to choose between irritated skin or bug bites. Certain terpenes are natural insect repellents, and they smell good too. 

Insect repellents can avoid harmful chemicals by using terpenes - Abstrax Tech

Terpenes in Medicated Topicals

This includes muscle rubs, menthol rubs to relieve congestion, and even THC and/or CBD topicals. If the whole point of your topical is to provide relief in some form or another, then it makes no sense to use artificial aromas that may irritate skin. Plus, it makes sense to include as many healing compounds as possible, so why not do it with terpenes.



We hope that more brands decide to use terpenes because we genuinely want to see more safe and clean products. If that sounds like the direction you want to move your brand, then feel free to contact us today! 

We’re always excited to partner with companies to create unique terpene blends for their products. Plus, we really know our terpenes and can help you select which ones will enhance your products.

Check out our terpene isolates and our blends, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for updates.

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