We already know consuming alcohol has detrimental effects to our health, but did you know it’s regularly used in cosmetics? This can cause skin to dry out and become more sensitized, leaving the skin feeling rough. A lot of your favourite skin care and makeup may have alcohol in it, meaning your products may not be quite as natural as you think.
Alcohol is commonly used in cosmetics to act as a detergent (cleanser), an emollient, an emulsifier, an antiseptic, or for giving a product a longer shelf life by stabilizing the other ingredients. But there isn’t just one type of alcohol; there are several different types, and a few can actually be beneficial!
For a product to be deemed “natural” and for a product to do minimal harm to the skins surface, it either has to have NO alcohol in, or one of the good alcohols.
The bad alcohols include ethanol (or ethyl alcohol), denatured alcohol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and benzyl alcohol. These alcohols can cause skin dryness and irritation, which can lead to more sensitive skin. They also destroy some of the good oils on the face, leaving the skin unprotected from environmental factors which can be aging.
The good alcohols (also known as “fatty” alcohols) are used as a humectant to help deliver ingredients into the skin. Natural alcohols are harder to find, so are used less in cosmetics. They cause no irritation to the skin and can help extend your products shelf life.
Regardless of whether a product contains good or bad alcohol, a product that has alcohol listed in the first five ingredients should be avoided; ingredients are listed by quantity. Any products with alcohol should also be avoided if you have capillary problems or other skin conditions – always seek medical advice to ensure your skin is getting the best care if you have problematic skin.