What Is It?
Ethanol or ethyl alcohol, sometimes just called Alcohol, is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. In the United States alcoholic beverages (liquor, wine, beer, etc.) are heavily taxed. In order to avoid paying beverage taxes on alcohol that is not meant to be consumed (e.g., for use in cosmetic and personal care products), the alcohol must be denatured per specific formulations given by the U.S. Government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The process adds a small amount of a denaturant to the alcohol to make it taste bad, thus creating alcohol that is not suitable for drinking, but is otherwise similar for other purposes. When used in products that are not food, beverages or oral drugs, many other countries, like the U.S., also require that alcohol be denatured.
Denatured alcohol is generally identified as Alcohol Denat. or specially Denatured (SD) Alcohol.
Denatonium Benzoate, t-Butyl Alcohol, Diethyl Phthalate, Methyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Salicylate, and Methyl Salicylate are examples of denaturants permitted for use by the TTB and concluded to be safe for use in cosmetics. Other countries have different rules on allowed denaturants so when formulating you should check with local regulations. Specific denatured alcohols containing these denaturants that are permitted for use in U.S. cosmetics and personal care products are SD Alcohol 3-A, SD Alcohol 30, SD Alcohol 39-B, SD Alcohol 39-C, SD Alcohol 40-B and SD Alcohol 40-C.
Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?
Denatured Alcohol is used in many personal care product types including makeup, lotions, fragrance, shaving, oral care, skin care and hair care products where it functions as an antifoaming agent, cosmetic astringent, solvent and viscosity decreasing agent. In OTC antimicrobial drug products, Alcohol also functions as an antimicrobial agent