SD Alcohol – Cosmetics ‘Alcohol-Free’ Marketing Scam Part 1

Part 1: How SD Alcohol Came To Be

There might be poison in your ‘alcohol-free’ night cream. It’s not meant to kill you, mind you, it’s meant to persuade you to buy the night cream.

Lets talk alcohol. Alcohols are actually quite a diverse group of chemicals but in cosmetic labeling, alcohol by itself means only one substance – ethanol or ethyl alcohol (source: FDA). For the plot of this story, it is very important to understand that the label ‘alcohol-free’ means exclusively that the cosmetic product does not include ethanol by itself.

In many cases, you will see that a cream contains ingredients such as lanolin alcohol, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol and so on, and the label will still read ‘alcohol-free’. Such alcohols are very useful when formulating a cream; they are also known as fatty alcohols and are of much benefit to the consumer. However, the lesson to be learned here is cream does contain alcohols, and sometimes lots of alcohols,  but it can still be labelled as ‘alcohol-free’.

We have covered the good alcohols; how about the bad ones? In cosmetics, there really are no bad alcohols, there are only the ‘good alcohols’ and the ‘worst alcohols’.

This is the plot: alcohol for drinking and alcohol for lets say laboratory and sterilization purposes were once the same thing. However, the government tax on ethanol is quite substantial to reduce socially-disruptive drinking – and laboratories found themselves paying huge taxes on buying ethanol not meant for drinking. They eventually negotiated with the government that ethanol, which is not meant for drinking, should not be taxed as heavily. However, the government wanted to make sure these laboratories and other industries were not buying the low-taxed alcohol that is not meant for drinking, only to turn around and sell it as a beverage – back in the days of alcohol prohibition (1920 to 1933 in the US) something like this was quite common.

This is why the government decided to literally poison the low-taxed alcohol by adding toxin to ethanol – and the SD alcohol was born.

It was a good solution. Nobody ever drank the SD alcohol for fear of getting poisoned and the laboratories and other industries could finally operate free of accusations that they are selling the ethanol they buy for creating alcoholic beverages.

But they didn’t count on what cosmetic industry will do when it discovered a very specific loophole. Read More in Part 2

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