Alcohol denate in cosmetic products – The bitter poison

Last updated: 19. February 2021

In this article we explain what alcohol denate is all about – an ingredient often found in cosmetic products.

Why alcohol is useful in cosmetics

Alcohol is first of all the pure chemical ethanol. This substance has many useful properties that the cosmetics industry makes use of: extracts from the respective plants can be extracted with alcohol, it has antimicrobial and preservative effect from a concentration of 10% and it is non-allergenic. Most manufacturers of cosmetics in Germany use “Alcohol denat” instead of pure alcohol. “denat” stands for denatured and indicates that this alcohol is not fit for consumption.

For the production of spirits, however, only pure alcohol is used, which is why it is highly taxed. For cost reasons, denatured alcohol is therefore preferred in cosmetics production.

What exactly is alcohol denat?

A distinction is made between completely and incompletely denatured alcohol. The legislator prescribes how complete denaturation must take place:

From August 1, 2017, 1.0 liters per 100 liters of alcohol Isopropyl alcohol (Propan-2-ol) < 1.0 liters Methylethylketone (Butan-2-on) and 1.0 gram denatonium benzoate should be added so that it can be regarded as completely denatured in accordance with § 43 Branntweinsteuerverordnung (BrStV)[from 1 January 2018: § 53 Alkoholsteuerverordnung (AlkStV)]. However, there are also applications for denatured alcohol that prohibit the use of these denaturants, in particular methyl ethyl ketone. Acetic acid is added to the alcohol for the production of vinegar. The fuel bio-ethanol contains gasoline and ethyl tert-butyl ether. Phthalates and other chemicals are added for use in the chemical and cosmetics industries. The phthalates are:

  • dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • bis-(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate
  • bis-(2-methoxyethyl)-phthalate
  • 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid dipentyl ester (branched and linear)
  • n-pentyl isopentyl phthalate
  • di-n-pentyl phthalate
  • diisopentyl phthalate
  • benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)
  • 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid (also known as phthalic acid, Di-C7-11, branched and linear alkyl esters)

Many of the substances listed, in particular DEHP, are suspected of having a negative influence on fertility due to numerous animal experiments.

What’s in my cosmetics?

You can have your cosmetic products analyzed by us and find out which substances the manufacturer used for denaturation.

my-lab analysis: cosmetics: softeners/phthalates

cosmetics: softeners/phthalates


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my-lab analysis: solvents in oil

solvents in oil


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my-lab analysis: Softeners (phthalates) in food

Softeners (phthalates) in food


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