4 Alcohols to avoid in skincare products

Alcohols to avoid in skincare

Nowadays many of you know that there are certain alcohols to avoid in skincare cosmetics. However, in the ingredient lists of most creams, make-up removers and other cosmetic products you will come across the word “alcohol”. In many cases even several times.

The truth is, not all alcohol in cosmetics is bad. Some can even offer pretty good qualities to the skin and the final product.

Confusion usually occurs when we have to know which drying alcohol does harm to the skin and which doesn’t. And that’s what today’s article is all about.

alcohols to avoid in skincare
Alcohol in cosmetics

Is alcohol bad for your skin?

The answer is easy but I promise you, I will do my best to explain to you why you should avoid certain types of drying alcohol.

Good vs bad alcohol in skincare

Good vs bad alcohol in skincare
Drying alcohol

Just down here you will find the difference between the two types of alcohol, what are the bad alcohols in skincare, and how do you tell by the name on the ingredient list which alcohol belongs to which group.

What is the function of this bad alcohol for skin?

Simple drying alcohols are low molecular weight alcohols and this means that they are considered volatile. These volatile alcohols are liquid at room temperature and evaporate quickly when they come in contact with the skin.

This kind of drying alcohol is the one people try to avoid.

Simple alcohols, the alcohols to avoid in skincare products.

alcohols to avoid in skincare
Simple alcohols in cosmetics

These drying alcohols are amazing solvents. They can dissolve both water and oil-soluble ingredients. For example, many fragrances commonly added into perfumes are dissolved into alcohol. This is because these fragrances usually aren’t water-soluble, but they are easily disolved in alcohol. Alcohol listed at the end of the ingredient list can also function as a preservative.

Furthermore, it allows us to spread the product on the skin more easily. For this reason, alcohol is often added to sunscreens as well.

No wonder they are so popular in cosmetics, since some of their properties can be very useful for manufacturers.

It can increase the absorption of other ingredients in the product. This may sound particularly tempting, but it’s not as great as it seems. These alcohols increase the absorption of other ingredients by disrupting the skin barrier.

A healthy skin barrier is crucial because a healthy skin barrier = healthy skin.

If it’s disrupted, transepidermal water loss occurs, resulting in dry, rough and irritated skin. Those who have dry skin are also more likely to be sensitive to the other ingredients in a product, which again increases the likelihood that the skin will burn, sting and will be even more irritated. In addition, if this skin barrier is damaged, it can no longer protect itself from free radicals, including UV radiation that breaks down collagen which leads to premature skin aging.

You can often find simple alcohols in products like facial cleansers or facial toners targeting oily and acne-prone skin. Those who use such products may initially have the feeling that they help them “wash the grease off” their skin. In fact, this only encourages your skin to produce more sebum, and a long-term use can also cause enlarged pores. These alcohols do more harm than good – they simply weaken the skin and prevent it from regenerating.

Most common simple alcohols to avoid in skincare.

⛔ Ethanol/Ethyl alcohol in skin care

Ethanol is commonly added to alcoholic beverages. Ethyl alcohol in skin care is used for its antimicrobial properties and its ability to disolve stubborn ingredients. It can also improve the spreadability of the final product. However, as I mentioned above, ethanol disrupts the skin barrier, which leads to many skin issues.

⛔ Denatured alcohol skincare

Denatured alcohol in skincare is produced by mixing additives so that it has a bitter taste.

What is denatured alcohol used for?

They use it to stop people from drinking this bitterly tasting alcohol. Moreover, cosmetics manufacturers do not have to pay extra taxes and follow the laws about alcohol.

⛔ SD alcohol

SD alcohol is a special denatured alcohol and falls into denatured alcohol. It differs in the additive that was used.

⛔ Benzyl alcohol/Benzenemethanol and Phenylcarbinol

Benzyl alcohol is an aromatic alcohol that gives the final product a delicate sweet aroma. It is obtained from fruits and takes the form of a colorless liquid. In cosmetics, it is used as a preservative to keep the product fresh. Like other simple alcohols, benzyl alcohol has the ability to dilute other ingredients and reduce viscosity of the product.

What are fatty alcohols in skin care?

Fatty alcohols are high molecular weight alcohols that have a solid consistency at room temperature. They are obtained from vegetable fatty acids. In cosmetics, they are very useful and appear very often on product labels. The vast majority of people tolerate them well, although the skin of each of us is different and at the end of the day it can react to whichever ingredient on the ingredient list.

Fatty alcohols, the ones to love in your skincare products

Alcohols to avoid in skincare
Fatty alcohols in cosmetics

In cosmetics, they are used for several reasons. The first reason is that they act as emulsifiers. If you have ever tried to mix oil and water, you probably know that they don’t mix together.

Your creams and body lotions are most likely a combination of water and oil. So to keep all the water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients together, it is necessary to use an emulsifer. And this is where the fatty alcohol in cosmetics arrive on the scene.

Reason number two is that fatty alcohols work as emollients. This means that they smooth out the skin cells, so the skin is beautifuly soft to the touch. Thanks to them your products have a thicker, creamier texture and create a thin layer on the skin, which can be beneficial particularly for dry skin. Unlike the simple alcohols, fatty alcohol in cosmetics doesn’t tend to dry out and irritate the skin.

List of fatty alcohols in skin care.

✅ Cetyl alcohol

Cetyl alcohol works well as an emollient and a thickener. It is most often used to create a more spreadable consistency. It gives products, that don’t contain water, a lighter silkier texture.

✅ Stearyl alcohol

Stearyl alcohol is obtained from stearic acid, which is found, for example, in nuts and coconut oil. Like cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol is used as an emollient, thickener and emulsifier. Most often you can find it in hair products, where it stabilizes foaming.

✅ Cetearyl alcohol

Cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol that is essentially a combination of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol.

Cetearyl alcohol adds body and thickening with a mid-weight velvety richness. Since cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol are often used together, it is common to use cetearyl alcohol instead.

✅ Isostearyl alcohol

Isostearyl alcohol is used for the same reasons as other fatty alcohols, i.e. as a emollient and thickener. However, unlike other fatty alcohols, isostearyl alcohol is liquid at room temperature. Thus, it makes the final product less viscous and doesn’t create a thin layer on the skin.

✅ Myristyl alcohol

Emulsions with a much lighter feeling on the skin can be created by using myristyl alcohol. It is also used to create rich foam, which is required mainly in hair products such as a shampoo.

Alcohols to avoid in cosmetics really isn’t a difficult topic. You just need to know which name falls into which category. I personally can’t use products that contain simple alcohols, as they incredibly dry my skin out and my skin is then able to fight back by a few (read a lot) new pimples. That’s why I always prefer to avoid them all around. I hope that after reading this article it will be easier for you to read the product label. Let me know in the comments how your skin tolerates alcohols in cosmetics.