Menthyl lactate is derived from menthol, a compound that comes from peppermint oil, or is made synthetically. Menthol has a natural cooling effect, which makes it useful as a topical analgesic to treat skin irritation, pain, itching or sunburn. Despite its cooling benefits, menthol can be a skin irritant. Like menthol, menthyl lactate is cooling, but it causes less skin irritation than menthol.
Menthyl lactate also has a refreshing, minty taste. For this reason, some manufacturers use it as a flavoring ingredient in mint-flavored toothpaste, mouthwashes, chewing gum, tobacco, candies and beverages. It’s an advantage to manufacturers that menthyl lactate is a liquid at room temperature, because this means that one does not have to melt it before adding it to products.