Organic alcohol denat in organic skin care?

alcohol in organic skincare

I was pretty riled up when I read ParisB’s post about Kiehl’s Acai Berry Organic Skincare being available in Malaysia because I spotted alcohol denat as one of the ingredients in the range.  In both its Acai Damage-Protecting Toning Mist and Acai Damage-Minimizing Cleanser, the ingredient is fourth on the list! It’s listed as an ingredient from organic farming but I’m not so convinced it needs to be so high up in the ingredient list, especially in an organic range that is certified under ECOCERT and said to be of 100% natural origin.

Fatty alcohols are also dehydrating for our skin
I’ve already  addressed the issue of alcohol in my earlier entry why can’t organic skin care be alcohol-free, where I’ve stated why I try to avoid alcohol in my facial skin care – especially if it’s listed at or near the beginning of the ingredient list, or when there are a bunch of them in the product.  This is because with long term usage, alcohol can make our skin drier.  And according to what I just read at Dr Nitasha Buldeo’s blog, alcohol also stimulates melanocytes which can result in hyper pigmentation of the skin and increased age spots.  Dr Nitasha Buldeo is the founder of Organic Apoteke and she also wrote that all alcohols, organic grain, alcohol denat as well as fatty alcohols such as cetyl, ceteryl, stearyl, benzyl and phenoxyethanol have the ability to dehydrate the skin – contrary to what we have read about them.

Demand for alcohol-free organic range
I know some of you have said that I’m biased when it comes to the topic of alcohol and that not all alcohol are bad.  Well, it now looks like my views are not totally off and if you want more expert insights on the topic including how exactly alcohol can harm our skin, read Dr Nitasha Buldeo’s post here.  I agree with her that alcohol-free organic skin care is possible but most companies are making excuses for it and taking the easier way out.  I’ll probably be more tolerant if the organic range is cheap but this excuse is totally not acceptable if the range is costly.

And right now, I’m really keen to find out exactly how different is organic alcohol denat from the non-organic one.


  1. fwy says:

    Sometimes retailers are not very honest with you about the harmful effects found in their products. How come organic brands still contains alcohol? I once went to an Etthusais counter enquiring about whitening products & the SA very honestly tells me that sensitive skin like mine are not suited to use whitening products as they contains ingredients that irritates the skin. I had been to so many beauty counters & not one has been so upfront about this fact to me. After her advice, I had stop using whitening products altogether & only uses whatever suits my skin type.

  2. Jojo says:

    I know exactly what you mean and agree totally, there’s no reason that alcohol should be a main ingredient in any formulation, I recently got lavera calendula face wash gel, and was upset that it’s got grain alcohol as 2nd/3rd ingredient on the list, i’m using it as I don’t want to waste it but i wouldn’t have got it if i have read the ingredient list properly!!!

    Thanks for the post! Nice one!

  3. AtelierGal says:

    I looked through my Kiehl’s Superbly Restorative Body Lotion and the organic product also contains alcohol. However it’s not listed in the Skin Salve from the same range.

  4. sesame says:

    I understand what you’re saying. Not many SAs are so honest. I have come across an aesthetic doc who was equally honest and discouraged me from going for laser treatments some years back. I appreciated that too!

    The whole thing about organic is that this word can be so misleading. Many pple jump at the products, thinking they’re good but not reading the ingredients. I used to be like that. Although I still cannot read many of the ingredients, but I actively try to avoid some of them…and many of these are still in the labels!

  5. sesame says:

    Oh, I used Lavera Calendula Face Wash Gel sometime back. I was careless and did not notice that ingredient until I was writing a review on it. So now, half a tube is still sitting in my bathroom.

  6. sesame says:

    I haven’t seen that one but hope the alcohol is not right on top.

  7. AtelierGal says:

    Listed as 5th ingredient, go figure

  8. sesame says:

    I’m less concern with alcohol in body care range…but still, 5th isn’t acceptable to me especially if it’s something like alcohol denat.

  9. Raelynn says:

    i dont think there’s a difference between organic and non organic alcohol denat. frowns. riding on the marketing hype methinks.

  10. Jan Lee says:

    I totally agree!!
    Alcohol in skincare is a NO,NO!!
    I have used Organic Apoteke face cream and serum and it made a huge difference to my skin. Why are there not more completely alcohol free skincare ranges, especially when the effects of alcohol are so widely known? Great site:-)

  11. Berry says:

    It’s quite difficult to avoid alcohol in organic skin care lines because they use it as a preservative (esp. phenoxyethanol). Otherwise the products would have v. short shelf life. There aren’t many good preservatives if you want to avoid both alcohols and parabens. I think the “dangers” of parabens might be overinflated. I would rather have preservatives in my skincare than bugs (bacteria/fungi) growing in it. The alternative is to formulate your own skincare in small batches and keep in the fridge.

  12. Zulai Luna says:

    Phenoxyethanol is not a conventional alcohol as some think. It’s an organic chemical compound, a glycol ether, derived from sage essential oil. It is one of the most widely used safe and effective preservatives in dermatological products such as skin creams and used in concentration of 0.5%-1% most. Phenoxyethanol also works as a topical antiseptic; it provides a broad spectrum anti-microbial activity against either gram-negative or gram-positive bacteria, yeasts and moulds. A preservative system, to preserve microbial integrity in place of parabens. It’s accepted for use in organic products by the Soil Association.
    As for Cethyl and Cetaryl alcohols, they are not conventional alcohols either. They are derived from coconut and act like emulsifiers and thickeners to give creaminess to the products.

  13. sesame says:

    Me thinks the same too! ?

  14. sesame says:

    I think it’s because they do not have the technology to stabilize the product due to a lack of preservatives unlike their chemical counterparts. Some also use it as a delivery agent…

  15. sesame says:

    Yes, I see phenoxyethanol a lot! I don’t mind some alcohol if they’re listed behind, but for many of these natural and organic formulations, I see them right on top. Otherwise, I see a bunch of them in the product. I suspect they try to overcompensate for the lack of preservatives.

    It is possible for the products to be alcohol free, just that they would need to formulate it differently. So I tend to be more forgiving if the product is cheap and affordable. If it’s expensive, then I expect alcohol to be out of the formulation or to be of little %.

  16. sesame says:

    I recall reading that FDA says Phenoxyehanol can depress the central nervous system as well as cause dermatitis. Personally, I haven’t been much concern with it if it’s listed behind but I do wish it’ll not be included. As for the fatty alcohols you mentioned, I went through a discussion with the others in my earlier post. Most said the same that it’s different from conventional alcohols although I disagree in terms of the effects. I think they can be drying to our skin when too much is used – few shared my view. Anyway Dr Nitasha Buldeo also indicated that they are only different because of the fatty component and these ingredients are equally dehydrating.

  17. Ms. Blacklace says:

    however, grain alcohol is better than alcohol obtained by cracking crude oil.

  18. sesame says:

    Yes, agreed!

  19. Jolene says:

    I agree that alcohol can be left out of a LOT of products. However, there are some products that require the use of water and oil such as lotion and need an emulsifier to bond them. The other alternative is a body butter that is made from oils and butters or the use of oil for moisture. However, most people do not like how greasy these products are and want a water based moisturizer that absorbs better in the skin. Since water is being mixed with oil, an emulsifier is needed. There are other options such as emulsifying wax, however, these are synthetic products and the ingredients to these are not even disclosed due it being trade secret. The only real natural and organic option (that I am aware of, but ofcourse, there could always be something new to the market, I personally have not seen anything else) is organic alcohol. Without it or a synthetic option, no lotion. Be nice if there was another option, I would surely like to get my hands on it to make some lotions (which I do like to make myself, so I can control the ingredients.) Also, lotion generally requires about 4-6% of an emulsifier to bond the water and oil together, so there is a reason a certain amount is used. It is all in the chemistry. (Lotions usually take bout 70-85% water, and more towards the 80% range, depending on the thickness, so the rest of the stuff is actually in small quantities anyways too. Anyways, hope that information helps. Be blessed.

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