This is the 3rd installment in a series of blog posts we’re doing taking a closer look at the inner workings of big brand pain relief topicals. Today, Bengay ingredients are on the docket. For a little background you should know that ingredients are listed by predominance with the biggest ingredient first and the smallest last. Another important thing to know: You can only use a term like “pain relieving” if your product is FDA approved as a drug. This is why a lot of the time you’ll read things about essential oils that are vague and beat around the bush like “may relieve pain” or “may reduce inflammation”.
Interesting fact – Bengay was invented by a guy named Benjamin Gay. Anyway let’s dive into this ingredient panel and see what we find, shall we?!
Bengay Ingredients List
Methyl Salicylate, Menthol, Synthetic Camphor, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Lanolin, Polysorbate 80, Potassium Hydroxide, Stearic acid, Triethanolamine, Water
Methyl Salicylate – Colorless, viscous, first discovered in 1848 and oft used as a flavoring agent in chewing gum.
Menthol – Menthol is a staple ingredient in pretty much all of these products. It’s often made synthetically and produces a cooling sensation. In our own we prefer using organic menthol crystals melted down during production.
Synthetic Camphor – We talked briefly about camphor in our Biofreeze ingredient breakdown and it’s also an ingredient in MuscleGoo, but get this: Camphor is distilled from the bark of the camphor tree native to China and Japan. Or it can be made synthetically in a lab. Which would you prefer?
Carbomer – A white fluffy base compound used in lots of cosmetics and topicals. It’s got a gel like consistency.
Disodium EDTA – Used as a food preservative and as a binding agent in many products as it promotes stability, texture, and color. It’s also used to treat lead poisoning and brain damage from lead poisoning. Too much of it can cause kidney failure, calcium deficiency, or death. But you know what they say – too much of anything can kill you.
Glyceryl Stearate SE – A fatty acid derived from vegetable oil, used in lots of moisturizers and conditioners.
Lanolin – An absolute classic natural ingredient, this bizarre stuff is a waxy substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. It’s like a sheepy skin moisturizer. Fair enough.
Polysorbate 80 – A fatty acid ester that is added to things to make them soluble and make emulsification possible.
Potassium Hydroxide – Guys! This is lye! It’s chemical safety classifications are “Irritant” and “Corrosive”.
Stearic acid – Used in foods and cosmetics, it’s low toxicity and passes through in a normal diet. It’s also used as a lubricant along with castor oil in some textile manufacturing processes.
Triethanolamine – Used as a pH adjuster as well as a fragrance agent, and also assists in emulsification.
Water – Water is one of the good guys, that’s undisputed, but studies show too much of this stuff can kill you.
Summary of Bengay Ingredients
In my opinion, Bengay’s ingredients land it right in between Icy Hot and Biofreeze on the wtf are you putting on your skin spectrum. Lye, more eloquently called Potassium Hydroxide was the big ! in my eyes. Ingredients aside, Bengay is generally thought to be less effective than the other competitors I mentioned, so if you can’t wait the 72 hours it’ll take for some MuscleGoo to get to you, I’d steer clear of Bengay and head towards Biofreeze.
For all sources, an overview comparison of several other big brand pain relief topicals, and deep dives into Icy Hot Ingredients, Biofreeze ingredients and more, click below: