- Alcohol denat is alcohol that has had a denaturant added to it, making it undrinkable.
- There are various chemical compositions for denatured alcohol, but they all create a substance that is bad to smell and taste, as well as dangerous to ingest.
- Alcohol denat is used in skin care for its ability to penetrate the skin and leave a fresh, clean sensation.
- Those with sensitive or dry skin should think about avoiding products that contain alcohol denat.
Alcohol denat is alcohol that has been mixed with a combination of chemicals that leave it unsuitable for consumption. Because alcohol denat cannot be ingested, companies are able to use it in various products for a lower cost than common government-regulated alcohol. Alcohol denat serves a variety of functions, including common use in skin care and other beauty products.
What is Alcohol Denat?
Alcohol denat, also called denatured alcohol or specially denatured (SD) alcohol, is any form of alcohol (but most commonly ethyl alcohol) that has had a denaturant added to it. Denaturants are mixtures of various chemicals that turn common alcohols into volatile alcohols.
Volatile alcohols are formulated not only to make alcohol taste and smell bad, but often to make it toxic as well. In other words, denatured alcohol is alcohol that has been made undrinkable, but is specially formulated (specially denatured) to be used in certain products like fuels, cleaning agents and cosmetics.
Alcohol denat vs other types of alcohols
Other alcohols commonly used in skin care are called fatty alcohols. These include cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and lanolin alcohol. They can be found in a variety of skin care products, including creams, lotions, and cleansers.
They are commonly known to have soothing and moisturizing properties for those with damaged or sensitive skin. For instance, one study found a cleanser formulated with cetyl alcohol to improve skin barrier function and increase skin hydration.
While these are also formulated so that they cannot be ingested, fatty alcohols are not labeled either as alcohol denat or SD alcohol. Despite the fact that they have been found to cause allergic reactions in a small number of people, the FDA has allowed products containing these alcohols to be labelled as ‘alcohol free’.
Alcohol Denat Uses in Skin Care
Specially denatured (SD) alcohols in skin care products commonly include denatured isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol. Alcohol denat has a low molecular weight, allowing it to act as a solvent; it mixes well with a variety of ingredients and easily evaporates.
Because products with alcohol denat evaporate easily, they can make thick, creamy products feel lighter to the touch, creating a matte feeling on the skin. SD alcohols are also able to penetrate the skin. This allows it to thoroughly remove oils and other debris.
Cosmetic products with alcohol denat
Alcohol denat is used in a wide variety of cosmetics and related skin beauty products, mainly for its use as a solvent for ingredients that do not dissolve in water, and for the pleasing texture it creates.
Some serums and toners, as well as many lotions and creams (including those used for the face, body, and hands) contain SD alcohol. Some other beauty products containing SD alcohols include shampoos, deodorants, perfumes and colognes, as well as disinfectant products like hand sanitizers.
Skin Care Benefits of Alcohol Denat
Cosmetics containing alcohol denat are very appealing to those with oily skin. These products feel light and dry out the skin, getting rid of any oily or greasy finish. In the long run, however, products containing alcohol denat can be too drying or irritating.
Alcohol in products like hand sanitizers has also been found to be effective in killing bacteria on the skin’s surface. To effectively fight off bacteria, however, the alcohol concentration must be quite high: 60-95%. It is therefore unlikely that this benefit will apply in the case of other skin care products.
Finally, while alcohol denat may not provide many direct benefits itself, it may improve the efficacy of other ingredients. The research on this is limited, but as a penetration enhancer, alcohol denat can theoretically help to permeate the skin with beneficial ingredients like vitamin C or retinol.
Safety and Side Effects of Alcohol Denat
The safety of alcohol denat depends on the form of alcohol and the denaturant that is used. The American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has found a variety of formulae for denatured alcohols to be safe for topical use. Of these, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review has found that SD alcohol types 3-A, 30, and 39-B, among others, are safe to use in cosmetic formulations.
However, some common side effects of topical alcohol denat are skin dryness and irritation (often redness or itching). In the case of long term and consistent use, SD alcohol, particularly isopropyl alcohol, has also been found to disrupt the skin’s natural barrier, and increase water loss through the skin. This inevitably weakens the skin and leaves it vulnerable to damage.
Should You Avoid Products with Alcohol Denat?
In short, yes, but some skin types should be more cautious than others. While infrequent use should not pose any long term damage, the potential of alcohol denat to promote water loss in the skin and disturb the skin’s natural barrier means that it should be avoided by those with dry or sensitive skin in particular.
Additionally, pregnant women, and others concerned about absorbing alcohol into the bloodstream via topical products can still use cosmetics that include alcohol denat. While one study showed that denatured ethanol from hand sanitizers can be absorbed into the bloodstream, this only occurs at extremely low levels, even when participants used sanitizers containing 95% ethanol multiple times per day.
Alcohol denat finds its way into many cosmetic products, notably creams, lotions, serums, and toners. It functions as a solvent, it gives products an appealing texture, and leaves skin with a fresh feel by removing deep-seated oils.
While alcohol denat is certified as safe to use in cosmetics by the FDA and the American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, products that include it, especially in high concentrations, should be used sparingly. Sensitive or dry skin types may find products with alcohol denat immediately irritating, and long term use can potentially lead to skin damage.
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