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Good and Bad Alcohol in Skincare

When it comes to skincare, there is a large amount of research into which ingredients do more harm than good and vice versa. Sometimes, the ingredients in question are up for debate. One such ingredient is alcohol. Some people claim it is bad for your skin while other people claim it is a necessary skincare ingredient. In this case, both arguments are right. Some alcohols, in moderation, are good for your skin while others should be avoided at all costs. Read to find out about good and bad alcohol in skincare.

What are Alcohols?

Alcohols are more than just your favorite beverage during cocktail hour. Alcohol is the name for a group of compounds that contain a hydroxyl group (-OH). These -OH groups then bond with carbon and hydrogen atoms and form a chain. These compounds can be used for a variety of products such as alcoholic beverages and detergents.

Bad Alcohols

When looking for skincare products, check the ingredient listings for some of these names:

  • Ethanol
  • Propanol
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Ethyl Alcohol
  • Methanol
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Benzyl Alcohol

These are the most common types of bad alcohols found in skincare. If you see one of these names, put it back on the shelf and keep searching. 

Good Alcohols

When looking for skincare products, check the ingredient listings for some of these names:

  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Lauryl Alcohol
  • Isopropyl Mistrate
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • Glycol
  • Stearyl Alcohol

These are the most common types of good alcohols found in skincare. If you see these listed in a product’s ingredients, then you are good to go.

Alcohols will often, but not always, end in -ol, so if you see an ingredient with this ending and are not sure if it is good or bad, a quick google search will do you good.

Good vs. Bad Alcohols

So what exactly makes an alcohol good or bad for your skin? The positive or negative effect on your skin is due to the concentration in the product. For example, ingredients in a product are listed by decreasing concentration. The higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more of it the product contains. Try to avoid products that list alcohols, especially the bad ones, within the top five ingredients. 

Another factor that affects whether an alcohol is good or bad is its physical properties. “Good” alcohols are fatty ones that are derived from natural fats and oils. They are used to keep oil and water from separating in a formula. They are also very gentle on the skin and help protect your moisture barrier, keeping skin hydrated. In contrast, “bad” alcohols, or simple alcohols, are very drying. These simple alcohols are used to make products feel lighter and act as a preservative, but these are only short term benefits. In the long run, they will strip your skin of necessary oils and lead to irritation and flakey skin.  

So Should You Avoid Alcohols?

In short, no. Fatty alcohols are great for keeping your skin hydrated and can help other ingredients penetrate the skin better. Simple alcohols are very drying and should be avoided in large concentrations. However, you should not cut them out completely. For instance, spot treatments will often use simple alcohols to dry out the area and decrease pimples. Because you are using so little and only in a small area, it is not doing too much harm to your skin. 

Check out what ingredients we use in our products and how they nourish your skin!

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