We need to talk about ALCOHOLS. Well, not the alcohols that we love to drink but the alcohols in skincare. There’re a lot of misunderstandings about alcohols simply because most people are confused about what exactly are different types of alcohols. There’re in general two very different types of alcohols used in skincare products: the drying type and the fatty alcohol.
Let’s take a look at the drying type of alcohol first. They’re often ethanol alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, alcohol denat, and methanol. They’re used in skincare to create a weightless cream, provide a quick-drying oil-free finish to the skin. Sometimes they’re also used as a preservative or help the product to penetrate the skin.
It seems pretty beneficial to skin especially to oil & acne-prone skin but it actually comes with a long-term negative impact on the skin.
These drying alcohols are harsh & cruel to all skin types, they cause dryness, irritation, and breakouts. They disrupt the skin’s natural protective barrier when used in high concentrations. Skin’s natural protective barrier is crucial for skin’s self-renewal & rejuvenation. Over drying the skin will also stimulate more oil production which would eventually lead to breakouts in a long run. It could be tempting for oily & acne-prone skin to choose a product that gives an immediate oil-free & slick feeling. Therefore, there’re some products in the market that still include these alcohols in their formula. The truth is, as we always emphasize, an adequate amount of natural sebum is good for all skin types. Your skin produces sebum to protect skin and retain moisture. When your skin is too dry, more sebum will be produced, and eventually, your skin will be more oily & pores will be enlarged.
What about fatty alcohols? Fatty alcohols are derived from vegetables and they’re absolutely skin-friendly. They will not dry or irritate your skin because they’re in fact pretty beneficial to the skin. They provide a pleasant texture to the product and they help the skin to keep moisture in. Common fatty alcohols you see are cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol & cetearyl alcohol.
Now you have a basic understanding of good & bad alcohols. Bottom line: bad alcohols do more harm than good to your skin in long term. There’re many alternatives to these bad alcohols in skincare products & remember to choose wisely!