Alcohol is often found in toners, moisturisers, serums and face masks; it’s purpose often is to act as an thickener or preservative. Alcohol can also change the texture of skin care products, the way they feel on the skin, and come with the added benefit of anti-bacterial properties. That being said, there are certain alcohols that might not agree with your skin.
So, why should you avoid alcohol in skin care products?
Firstly, not all alcohols should be avoided. Fatty alcohols are a perfectly safe form of alcohol often derived from natural ingredients. Examples of fatty alcohols include cetyl alcohol derived from coconut oil, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol. These alcohols improve texture of skin care products, as well as act as emulsifiers; no need to be worried if you find these on the ingredient list.
In addition to improving texture of products, these alcohols come with the benefit of being packed with fatty acids which can be beneficial for the skin. Such alcohols can have a moisturising effect on the skin, as well as enhance the skin’s natural lipid barrier.
Simple alcohols have a dehydrating effect on the skin
Examples of such alcohols include alcohol denat, isopropyl alcohol and ethanol. This type of alcohol is commonly found in toners to help the product dry quickly as well as improve ingredient absorption but this can cause skin dryness and irritation. When your skin becomes dry, your sebaceous glands can overproduce oils to counter this dryness which can cause clogged pores and an oily complexion.
Simple alcohols can cause skin irritation and damage the natural lipid barrier
Simple alcohols are also used as a facial ‘degreaser’, they break down oils in your skin to remove shine and reduce sebum which can be responsible for breakouts and an oily complexion. In the short term this might be beneficial, but repeated use of these products can compromise the skin’s natural lipid barrier leading to dryness and inflammation. Continuous use can therefore make your skin more susceptible to environmental aggressors such as UV and pollution.
Simple alcohols can lead to fine lines and wrinkles
Fine lines and wrinkles appear due to reduced collagen in the skin, as well as decreased overall skin hydration. Prolonged use of simple alcohols can cause the skin to be dehydrated which can lead to fine lines and wrinkles forming.
To sum it up
Fatty alcohols are perfectly safe to be used on the skin, and they’re often added to improve the look, feel, and texture of skin care products. Examples of such alcohols includes stearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol. Simple alcohols on the other hand can have negative consequences on the skin such as irritation, dehydration, and premature aging. Examples of such alcohols includes alcohol denat, isopropyl alcohol and ethanol, best to stay away from these.