Is Alcohol in skincare bad for your skin?
When your skin feels dry and depleted after using a skincare products – it may be that there is a culprit in the ingredients that you should be aware of …..alcohol!! But not just any alcohol – volatile alcohols that are actually drying out your skin’s own protective barrier.
How can you tell good alcohol from bad alcohol?
It’s important not to confuse these good forms of alcohol with the problematic types of alcohol.
These are known as ‘Fatty alcohols’ and are derived from coconut or palm oil and is used to thicken a formulation. These can be nourishing for the skin and are not irritating in the least!
Cetyl which is a product thickener
Stearyl which helps trap moisture in the skin
Cetearyl alcohol which acts as an emulsifier to stabilise a formulation
Propelene glycol which is a humectant to attract water into the skin
Evaporative solvent alcohols which can have a dehydrating effect on the skin and are the ones to avoid.
SD alcohol 40
Why do skincare brands use ‘bad alcohol’ in their skincare products?
Simply put, they give a tight, cooling and refreshing sensation that people with oily skin might find reassuring. Despite the fact they are actually stripping away the skin’s natural oils and damaging the protective barrier.
Also they act to help dissolve ingredients that aren’t water soluble as well as drive ingredients deeper into the skin.
In the long run, they can enlarge pores and increase skin’s oil production so best avoided if you have an oily or acne prone skin. Some well known toners have ethanol which is quite drying for sensitive skin types -so be on the lookout for that. The higher this type of alcohol is on the ingredients list, the higher the concentration and stronger the effect it will have on the skin. This higher concentration will cause irritation and that’s bad for all skin types causing dryness, free radical damage and the skin’s own ability to heal.
Sometimes though, the bad alcohols aren’t so terrible and in spot treatments, since the aim is to dry up the infection, alcohol can do just that.