Email Question: Alcohol as a Preservative?

This is another fantastic email question.  I love the ones that make me think and even do some research!

I stumbled upon your blog today because I was looking for information regarding a natural preservative. Your blog stated that basically there are none. I know of a company that uses organic grain ethanol as a preservative, and they sell their products worldwide, so i’m guessing this works.
Since you stated that you are a chemistry teacher, would you be able to tell me what percentage I would have to use the ethanol at?
You would have to use ethanol at quite a high percentage for it to be an effective preservative, I would estimate 25% or more.  That would ruin any product I was trying to make, especially a lotion or cream.  Ethanol is also quite drying to skin.
I also asked which brand uses ethanol (which is just alcohol, the same type that gets people drunk) and the reader replied that it was Dr. Bronner’s.  I did a little research and found the ingredients list:
Aqua, Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Organic Ethanol*, Organic Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Organic fairDeal Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil, Organic Quillaja Saponaria Extract, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil
Ethanol is very high up on the ingredient list.  There’s more ethanol than there is avocado oil.  I swear by Dr. Bronner’s castile soap.  It’s amazing but their lotions are not, in my opinion.  On Amazon, you can see that all the critical reviews basically say the same thing: the lotion is runny, smells like alcohol, isn’t very moisturizing.  These would be my main concerns with using alcohol as a preservative.
More questions please!  Email

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