Do your skincare products contain ‘good’ or ‘bad’ alcohol? Experts explain

HONG KONG — Many skincare products use “free from” lists to show their dedication to pores and skin security and environmental consciousness. No sulphates, no parabens, no mineral oils, no synthetic colors, no fragrances — the listing goes on, and retains rising.

One of essentially the most controversial gadgets on “free from” lists is alcohol, which has develop into an unpopular ingredient previously few years as a result of many manufacturers misuse it. While alcohol can harm pores and skin, not all alcohols are created — or carry out — the identical manner. That’s the place the reply to “Should I keep away from alcohols in any respect price?” will get a bit difficult.

There are some alcohols you need to keep away from and a few you need to embrace. The secret’s figuring out tips on how to differentiate them.

“When it involves cosmetics, we separate alcohol into two classes: easy alcohols and fatty alcohols,” says Ms Rachaelle Rempe, founding father of skincare model Auraiha. She factors out that though there are not any “good” and “unhealthy” alcohols per se, they can be utilized to attain totally different outcomes.


These are those that ought to elevate a crimson flag in the event you spot them on an elements listing. Simple alcohols — also called risky alcohols — are deeply dehydrating. Dehydration can set off a domino impact in your pores and skin that will result in itchiness, sensitivity, dullness, sebum overproduction, advantageous traces, wrinkles and extra.

If they’re such a risk to your pores and skin’s well being, why do some manufacturers nonetheless use them? Simple alcohols reminiscent of ethyl alcohol, methanol, ethanol, denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol and benzyl alcohol are largely used as antibacterials or as solvents that can enhance a method’s texture.

There are loads of skincare traces for shiny or acne-prone pores and skin that use alcohol as an astringent, able to absorbing extra oil and offering a refreshing, tightening sensation regarded as an indication that the product is doing its job.

However, what that sensation actually tells you is that the product has stripped away all of your pores and skin’s pure oils, each the surplus you wished to do away with and the important ones your pores and skin wants to remain wholesome, which may find yourself damaging your pores and skin barrier.

Simple alcohols could make a product’s texture really feel extra light-weight, assist different elements within the method to penetrate pores and skin higher and act as preservatives. While all these options sound good, the true points come after long-term use.

“Many skincare manufacturers incorporate easy alcohols — like the sort we drink — as astringents for toners, which advantages individuals with oily pores and skin,” Ms Rempe says. “…While these can produce leads to the quick time period, research point out that straightforward alcohols negatively influence your pores and skin in the long run — they irritate your pores and skin and disrupt its potential to resume itself.”

Using these products as a part of your day by day routine can enhance the quantity of sebum your pores and skin naturally produces to compensate for the dryness that alcohol is inflicting and worsen circumstances reminiscent of eczema and rosacea by exacerbating irritation.


At the opposite finish of the spectrum, we’ve got a gaggle of alcohols which can be exceptionally useful for your pores and skin. Fatty alcohols are compounds derived from sure pure waxes, crops and unrefined cereals that act as emulsifiers and emollients in some products.

“These [alcohols] lend themselves to a lubricious, moisturising really feel and provides physique to any skincare product,” says Christin Powell, CEO and co-founder of skincare label Kinship, so in the event you discover gadgets reminiscent of cetyl, behenyl, stearyl or cetearyl alcohol on a product’s ingredient listing, there’s nothing to worry. “They assist stabilise actives like salicylic acid, zinc oxide and hyaluronic acid, and stop moisture loss within the pores and skin”.

The non-irritating nature of fatty acids makes them the proper agent to not solely mix oil- and water-based elements collectively but in addition to assist produce a creamy, thicker texture that can really feel luxurious on your pores and skin.

In addition, the emollient powers of fatty acids assist flatten the cells on the outer layer of your pores and skin, bettering its texture and making it really feel smoother and softer to the contact.

These non-irritating fatty alcohols can present a number of advantages for all pores and skin sorts, however much more so for these in search of an additional moisturising increase. “Fatty alcohols come from fatty acids, that are current in oils,” Ms Rempe says. “These create a moisturising impact and assist to thicken lotions and lotions. [They] profit our pores and skin each short-term and long-term, particularly for shoppers liable to dry pores and skin.”


Ultimately, it’s a matter of how and why these alcohols are there. When utilizing spot remedies or treating an contaminated wound, easy alcohols aren’t unhealthy so long as they’re not used long-term. If a product that you just use often features a easy alcohol in its formulation and is listed throughout the first six elements, it’s higher to avoid it.

As for fatty alcohols — they’re the misunderstood superheroes you need in your routine.

“Fatty alcohols are nice … however when denatured, alcohol can have a drying, astringent-like impact on the pores and skin,” Ms Powell explains. “Kinship doesn’t use denatured alcohol in our formulation due to its incapability to guard the pores and skin’s barrier successfully.”

Knowing how these alcohols work is a should to have the ability to decide a product earlier than deciding if you wish to use it, as they will both disrupt or improve your routine. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

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