Methyl Alcohol

What Is It?

Methyl Alcohol, also called methanol, is a clear, colorless liquid. In cosmetics and personal care products, Methyl Alcohol is used in the formulation of bath products.

Why Is It Used?

Methyl Alcohol is used as an alcohol denaturant.

Scientific Facts

Methyl Alcohol, or methanol, has historically been produced from the distillation of wood and is also known as wood alcohol.

It can also be produced synthetically from fossil fuels, as well as from other starting materials.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits Methyl Alcohol residues not to exceed specified limits in spice oleoresins and extracts of hops used for beer production.

FDA also includes Methyl Alcohol on its list of indirect food additives for use in adhesives and as a defoaming agent in the maufacture of paper and paperboard used for food packaging.

The safety of Methyl Alcohol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that Methyl Alcohol was safe as used to denature alcohol used in cosmetics and personal care products.

CIR Safety Review:

Methyl Alcohol was readily absorbed through the skin and from the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, was distributed throughout all organs and tissues (in direct relation to the body’s water distribution), and was eliminated primarily via the lungs. Undiluted Methyl Alcohol was an ocular and skin irritant.

Inhalation studies showed a no-effect level for maternal effects of 10,000 ppm and for developmental effects of 5,000 ppm.

Overall, Methyl Alcohol was not considered mutagenic. Carcinogenicity data were unavailable.

The toxicity of Methyl Alcohol in humans results from the metabolism of the alcohol to formate and formic acid through a formaldehyde intermediate. Formate accumulation causes metabolic acidosis and inhibits cellular respiration. Methyl Alcohol toxicity is time and concentration dependent, and its toxic effect is competitively inhibited with ethyl alcohol (ethanol).

Because of the moderating effect of ethyl alcohol, it was concluded that Methyl Alcohol was safe as used to denature ethyl alcohol used is cosmetics and personal care products. No conclusion was reached regarding any other use of Methyl Alcohol.

More information about formaldehyde.

Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Methyl Alcohol

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives indicated that the daily intake of Methyl Alcohol is only limited to that determined by good manufacturing practice which is expected to result in minimal residues.

Health Canada permits the use of Methyl Alcohol in cosmetics and personal care products. When a product contains more than 5 ml Methyl Alcohol, it must be labeled appropriately.…

Methanol is listed in the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union (see Annex III) and may be used only as a denaturant for ethanol and isopropyl alcohol at a maximum concentration of 5%, calculated as a percentage of ethanol and isopropyl alcohol.

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation:

More Scientific Information

Methyl Alcohol is an aliphatic alcohol that is metabolized to formaldehyde and formic acid. In cosmetics and personal care products, Methyl Alcohol functions a denaturant


Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration

Food Ingredients and Packaging:

Food Contact Substances:

Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS):

Search the Code of Federal Regulations

EU Cosmetics Inventory