What is Alcohol?

What is Alcohol? Chris Humphreys

Alcohol is a technical term for a large and diverse family of chemicals. Alcohols are immediately recognisable by name as they all end in OL.

Are all alcohols the same?

No.  When people use the word alcohol, most of us naturally think of the type of alcohol present in drinks such as beer, wines and spirits.

This type of alcohol is known as ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, and can be made by various means such as fermenting sugars and starches or it can be artificially synthesized.

These are commonly known as grain alcohols.

What other alcohols are there?

Denatured alcohol

Many cosmetic products contain denatured alcohol. This is simply grain, as found in beer, wines and spirits, with additives to make it unsuitable for consumption. These are commonly found in dental mouthwash, deodorants, skin moisturisers and creams, make-up, and body cleansers.
These alcohols can dry and irritate the skin but are often used because of their antibacterial effects, as a preservative, or as an effective 'carrier' of ingredients such as perfume.
Alcohol-free cosmetics do not contain ‘grain’ alcohol.

Aromatic alcohol

These are non-grain alcohol. They can be used in cosmetics or health products as an alternative to denatured alcohol. They are effective insect repellents, antiseptics, and preservatives.

Fatty alcohol

These can be used in cosmetics. They are used as a lubricant, to bind elements such as oil and water to thicken creams and act as a skin softener. Fatty alcohols do not dry or irritate the skin.