Alcohol Denat in my sunscreen!

edited September 2016 in Ask the Beauty Brains
I'm loving all the recent posts about sunscreen! Being fairly new to using it I was glad to find one recently that didn't feel greasy and have become newly dedicated to wearing it daily especially on my face, neck and backs of hands. The recent posts about sunscreen ingredients made me check the labels and I was shocked and upset to see alcohol denat so near the top after the active ingredients. With 34 % being the sum of the active ingredients should I be concerned about the alcohol in this product? Ombrelle ultra fluid face spf 60 Active Ingredients: Homosalate 15%, Oxybenzone 6%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 5%, Avobenzone 3% Aqua, Cyclopentasiloxane, Alcohol Denat., Silica, Dicaprylyl Ether, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Dimenthicone, Cyclohexasiloxane, Polymethylsilesquioxane, Nylon-12, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Phenoxyethanol, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Sodium Chloride, Caprylyl Glycol, PEG-8 Laurate, Methylparaben, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Isostearyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Dodecene, Poloxamer 407, Tocopherol, Vitis Vinifera Fruit Extract. I use a different product during the day (Clinique city sheer spf 25 which contains titanium oxide and zinc dioxide did I mix those up whoops) but wash my face after getting home from work and because of the cost of the Clinique was looking for a non tinted pocketbook friendly version for evenings. Looking forward to your thoughts!


  • edited September 2016
    @AngelaC Personally I do not like Alcohol in my skincare esp Denatured Alcohol however from experience, I use a product called Alpha H liquid gold that contains Denat Alcohol (2nd ingredient) and I do not have problems with that product. However, some other formulations containing high quantities of alcohol burn my face and dry them out. 

    I recall a podcast by Brainiac, Perry & Randy said alcohol is not a bad ingredient at the right amounts. I quote "Adding ethanol at reasonable levels allows formulators to combine ingredients that may otherwise not be included. We haven’t seen any convincing evidence that consumers who use products formulated with alcohol in this way are harming their skin." Link

    Alcohol Denat is the 8th ingredient in your Ombrelle sunscreen 
    It's not definitely under 10% (conservatively speakingg), maybe less than 5%!
    I do not think there is a cause for concern. Maybe TBB can advise?

    I've read somewhere how Alcohol helps the sunscreen last longer... dry faster. I have used many Japanese sunscreens in the past and noticed high alcohol content in their products. I was using one for 5 years continuously and it has seriously rub proof, sebum resistant, last well. Never got burnt using it. Somewhere I read about how alcohol help makes the coat of sunscreen protect you like a "mask". Not sure exactly the science behind it.

    Like how the co-founders of TBB (the beauty brains) usually say you do not have to spend a lot on products. Sadly, Price does not reflect quality. Look for better options. I like Babo Botanicals and it rocks! Not expensive, cost USD17 for  50ml. Have reviewed that on my blog. It's also a combination of Zinc and titanium. No alcohol INGREDIENTS here It contains fatty alcohol: myristyl alcohol acid and  cetearyl alcohol which is rated 1 by EWG and used as an emulsifier".. I use this sunscreen during the door indoors only.   

    Sunscreen is very important. Best to get a good one that is affordable enough not to think twice about using it. I've compiled a list of mineral based sunscreen if you'll like I can send you that.

    Hope this helps  ;)

    Question @AngelaC : What sunscreen do you use in the evening? Do we need sunscreen if the sun has set?

  • I heard that consumption of topical alcohol denat accumulates and does damage in long perspective like 10 years or so.

    It seems that nobody knows if it is true though.

    Anyway consequences look worse than not using now. 
  • edited September 2016
    @Vi_Woolf  Denat alcohol contains a poison and is not apt for human consumption. This "poison" was deliberately added so it cannot be consumed. 

    My understanding too is that  alcohol (aka booze) is taxed heavily by excise (like cigarettes). "Cleaning alcohol" has very very small percentage of methanol added so it can be sold at a lower price for different market needs (definitely not for drinking). There are many grades of alcohol too. Not sure exactly how much "pure"  ethanol is included in SD alcohol. (>90%?)

    It is VERY DIFFICULT to obtain pure 100% ethanol (chemical name C2H6O). You need to have industry access pretty much. 

    Topical is a different story. i am not a fan of SD alcohol either. However, I agree with the beauty brains stance that it is not bad if included at a reasonable quantity.

    my 2c. let me know if i am on the right track.
  • Based on where alcohol appears in the ingredient list I'm guessing it only contains a few percent. I don't think this will be a problem. 
  • Thank you all for your replies!

    It is the long term cumulative damage / effect of alcohol denat that I am concened about. And I have also read that it can almost immediately undo the good things that other beneficial ingredients provide, such as Retin A and Vitamin C.  

    Randy answered what I had hoped, that so far down the ingredient list it poses a low risk - but wondering now if I shoudl just keep looking for something that is NO risk.

    @preciousia - thanks for the info - would like to read your blog how do I find it? And would absolutely like to see your list of mineral based sunscreens!   As for evening sunscreen, I am referering to the 5 -10 pm time before I wash up for bed.  Where I am (MB Canada) it is daylight till 10 pm in the summer, till about 8 this time of year but soon will be dark by 4 pm then I wont bother with an evening SPF.  
  • edited September 2016
    @AngelaC ;

    I am looking at New Directions Laboratory Safety Data Sheet of Alcohol

    • Australia AICS Name: Ethanol
    • USA INCI Name: SD Alcohol 40C
    • EU INCI Name: Alcohol
    • UN proper Shipping name: Ethanol

    Composition of the "Ethanol" is 
    • Alcohol 96.0% - 96.3%
    • Purified Water  < 4%
    • Tertiary Butanol [Denatured: To conform with Australia Taxation Office - Excise requirment] 0.25%
    I would imagine the composition will differ for different suppliers. But the quantity of the denatured component is really really little. I do not know nor have read reports of the long term cumulative damage of alcohol denat. Could you share what reports these are? I was experimenting DIY with rice wine, or sake, which is healthier (high alcohol content too) but solubility is probably not the best compared to pure ethanol. 

    So technically, assuming the alcohol content in your Ombrelle Ultra Fluid Face SPF60 is 5%, the "denatured" component is 0.25%x5% =0.0125% I do feel the "risk" is really as RandyS says "I don't think this will be a problem." :-) 0.01% is not something i would be concerned about. I would look at the product ingredients big picture rather than focus on the 0.01% :)

    Thanks for telling me about the sun in Canada, how odd to have sunlight till 10pm at night. I think my circadian clock will be so screwed up. For my blog, you can find it here:

    I'm inspired and motivated by how diligent you are by applying sunscreen from 5am-10pm! 17 hours! Whoa  B-) With such long hours of sun, you definitely need a "healthier" sunscreen.
    My list of mineral sunscreen hereI have included Australian, USA, Japanese, and Korean sunscreens. Not a full comprehensive list of everything in the market but there is quite a few to look at, so if you are aware of any more, drop me a note. 

    Hope this helps! 

    @RandyS  Question: What would be % component of denatured alcohol in US be? Ombrelle is Garnier which is L'Oreal, so i am unsure the different % regulations for SD alcohol in different countries. Not sure where Ombrelle is manufactured and which country regulations it falls under. Assuming that denatured alcohol is similar in the other countries, then 0.25% denatured component is really low.
  • There are many different denaturants used in ethanol at different concentrations. 
  • edited September 2016
    @RandyS  Any idea the percentage range for Denatured components in SD alcohol across different suppliers etc? Does the cosmetic industry use pure ethanol C2H6O? Alcohol have some good properties like killing bacteria, penetration enhancer etc but i think it is the denatured component that makes us consumers worried like AngelaC talks about "risks". What are the risk of SD alcohol and at what quantities is "not reasonable"? *scratch head* :) thanks. 

    Have started listening to your podcasts and i enjoy the banter between you and Perry!  

    BTW, How do i buy that book of yours, i am old school, i would like an autographed hard copy... hee if possible. sent to Australia. :) Let me know the costs. Hope there is still some left. 
  • edited September 2016
    Actually, I think most consumers are just concerned about the ethanol itself. (I don't think most people even understand that denaturants are used.) The concerns are that ethanol may be drying or irritating although when you look at the data there's not much evidence of this. 

    The denaturants are used at very low levels and I've never seen any data suggesting that they pose any risk whatsoever. Sorry but I don't have a list of all the denaturants used and their concentration. That's something you can probably Google fairly easily. 

    Pure ethanol is never used in cosmetics and BTW, alcohol is only germicidal at concentrations greater than 70% which you won't find in any beauty products except maybe hand sanitizers. 

    I'm not sure of the shipping costs but my guess is that it'l cost an additional $15 USD to send our book to Australia. If you're interested, email me at and we can discuss details further. 

  • edited September 2016
    I think you're right, most people don't understand denaturants and it is so assuring to know that the myth of alcohol being drying/irritating is not supported by much evidence. Personally, I have used a product with Alcohol Denat as the 2nd ingredient and i don't have any issues with that product. So, conclusion from my personal experience is alcohol isn't bad.

    @Randy ;Is there a reason why the cosmetics industry do not use pure ethanol C2H6O?
    Is the reason costs? 

    I have tried googling denaturants in SD alcohol. Didn't have much luck, is it safe to assume that the SD alcohol contain less than 5% denaturants in general?  

    None of my products i use on the face contain more than 70% alcohol. Alcohol is never the 1st ingredient in my facial products. The only products than uses high quantities of alcohol are hand sanitizers like you mentioned and sterile medical alcohol swaps. What are the quantities of alcohol should we be concerned about?

    Have messaged you privately about the book. Going to get either soft or hard copy. thanks!  :)
  • You have to have an alcohol permit to purchase alcohol for manufacturing. The type of permit cosmetic manufacturers use only allows denatured alcohol. Since pure ethanol can be consumed the regulations/taxes/cost/etc are much different. 
  • @Randy Thank you. ;)

    At what levels of SD alcohol in a formula should we be concerned?
  • So torn on this. A person can go mad trying to learn the truth. I just happened upon this: Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Alcohol helps ingredients like retinol and vitamin C penetrate into the skin more effectively, but it does so by breaking down the skin's barrier—destroying the very substances that keep your skin healthy over the long term (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012 and Journal of Hospital Infection, 2003). A significant amount of research shows alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012). Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but skincare products contain amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol also causes skin cells to self-destruct (Alcohol, 2002). Research also shows that these destructive and aging effects on skin cells increased the longer skin was exposed to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure were dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration (Alcohol, 2002). In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012). The link is there for those who wish to read the quoted studies (sorry it is embedded in a review about another product I saw available locally):
  • AngelaC 

    Gosh! you got me at Cell death. Great research & share.
    I am scared.
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