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It’s Time to Talk About Alcohol Denat

Why this common cosmetic ingredient deserves a second look before getting a spot in your routine

Written by: 100% PURE ®
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Hold up – there’s alcohol in this? Depending on what we’re talking about, that could be a good thing. But in this case, we’re turning a microscope on skin care and everything we know about alcohol denat.

Turns out, there’s a sneaky alcohol lurking in most of our mainstream beauty products and we didn’t even know it: denatured alcohol, or alcohol denat. Alcohol denat isn’t a filler or a fluff ingredient; it actually has a purpose in cosmetic products. The problem is that this ingredient can come with quite a few downsides that are, simply put, deal breakers for us.

Here’s the lowdown on this common ingredient and why we’re keeping it far away from our skin.


What Is Alcohol Denat?

Let’s rewind a little – what exactly is alcohol denat? Denatured alcohol is commonly used in skin care to ensure formula stability, emulsify ingredients, enhance skin absorption, or to preserve the product.

This obviously means that in some cases, alcohol denat is crucial to the performance of the product. While we wholeheartedly agree that all of these elements are important in terms of creating a quality skin care product, we also happen to know that there are alternative ingredients that are better for our skin.


Dry skin
What Makes Denatured Alcohol Bad News?

The rub is, at its most basic function alcohol denat goes against everything healthy skin wants and needs. What our skin wants and needs is a healthy acid mantle, hydration, some native oils for moisture and protection, and overall balance.

Now here comes denatured alcohol, sucking the hydration right out of us and leaving skin vulnerable and exposed. We’re talking about visible skin irritation, enhanced signs of aging, and increased likelihood of a breakout.

Alcohol Denat for your skin type
If you thought that news was bad, here’s what’s worse: depending on your skin type, denatured alcohol could be even more harmful. Oily skin, for example, is already working at an imbalance; either your skin is predisposed to excess oil secretion, or an external element is creating this surplus of sebum.

Denatured alcohol further swings the balance by communicating to our skin that we *need* more oil, that something is causing us to dry out and to send oil to our rescue. Over time, oil sticks around and turns into a blackhead or blemish and before you know it, we’re using more clarifying products to try and restore our skin, all the while putting at risk for a recurring breakout.

Is dry skin your concern? If so, you’ve probably already experienced the drying and irritating effects of alcohol firsthand. Outdated toners and astringents feature tons of alcohol, burning and irritating the skin on contact. Using alcohol denat can cause flaking, irritation, and other complexion issues.

While any skin type experiences breakouts, dry skin is at a particular risk. Not only is dry skin in a perpetual subtle state of irritation, but dead surface skin is more common and is very likely to clog pores. Particularly dry skin that has been recently exposed to alcohol is essentially primed to better receive acne causing bacteria.

Since our skin is always working to achieve balance, something that is as severely drying as denatured alcohol is certainly not going to help. Once our skin is in a chronically dry state, it is really hard to restore that sebum balance – especially if alcohol denat is still lurking in some of our skin care products.

Despite the antibacterial and textural benefits of alcohol denat, we think these side effects are worse!


Cream texture
How You Can Avoid Alcohol Denat in Skin Care

Remember how we shrieked at the thought of alcohol in cosmetics, and worried that it couldn’t be good for our skin? Plot twist: some alcohols in skin care are actually safe! It turns out that certain types of alcohol are perfectly upstanding members of the skin care community.

Many types of alcohol can be naturally derived. You might see these labeled as cetyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol, for example. These will often be coconut oil based, or derived from other vegetable oils. They’re especially useful as emulsifiers, a component that helps to properly blend and balance all the ingredients in a formula.


What we’ve learned is to look at ingredient placement on product labels. Most ingredients are listed in descending order from highest concentration down to least concentration, up to a point. The most important rule of all is to listen to your skin. The way our skin reacts and behaves is the best indicator of if a product works for us or not, and ultimately, we have to be comfortable in our own skin.

We carefully hand-select products based on strict purity standards, and only recommend products we feel meet this criteria. 100% PURE™ may earn a small commission for products purchased through affiliate links.

The information in this article is for educational use, and not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used as such.

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