Alcohol in skin care, I don’t think there is anything more confusing as this subject.
The arguments for and against are so compelling.
Every expert out there on the subject is of a different opinion, and it just makes it all the more baffling when the experts can’t agree.
I read through dozens of websites, research sites, and forums and I can tell you, I am slightly clearer on this subject.
Enough for me to now make an informed decision about what I am looking for.
I have two organic skin care products I use quite regularly, and they both contain either alcohol or cetyl alcohol.
There I am looking at the word organic on the front label and one of them has alcohol as the first ingredient listed.
Am I being over-cautious? Is my preference for all things natural clouding my judgment?
Well, I am just like you, no expert and can feel totally overwhelmed by the contradictory information out there on skin care.
I hope some of the research I have done, may help you feel a little clearer about this complex subject.
When it comes to alcohol and skin, it really is a matter of working it out for yourself.
Try different products, with varying amounts of ingredients and find out which one works best on your skin.
The word alcohol covers a vast array of chemicals in skin care products.
With all the puzzlement over alcohol and skin, you are probably better off to just drink the stuff.
What is the difference between the different names of alcohol in skin care?
Alcohol In Skin Care
Here is a list of some of the other names you may come across in front of the word alcohol.
Benzyl, isopropyl, methanol, denatured, ethanol, caprylic, decyl, myristyl, oleyl, lauryl, stearyl, or stearyl.
To help narrow down the list, and maybe put your mind at rest. Some of the above ingredients are fatty alcohols and not an alcohol. Rather fatty acids exposed to hydrogen (1).
Companies use fatty alcohol in skin care products to give the cream or lotion its thickness and smooth feeling when applied to your skin.
These fatty acids are not necessarily harmful to your skin, they come from oils and fats. Some may argue that these fatty alcohols can be drying when used on the skin.
However, they are used for their moisturizing effects and help keep the oil and water in the product from separating.
Having said that, people with sensitive skin may need to use with caution (2).
Even though fatty alcohols do get the tick of approval, there are still many who are wary of them.
If you do have sensitive skin and feel the moisturizing cream, you are using is causing problems. You would be better off applying natural oils to your skin.
Fatty Alcohol In Skin Care
The fatty alcohols to look out for are, lauryl, cetyl, oleyl, stearyl, or cetearyl.
Cetyl is usually obtained from petroleum, coconut or palm oil. Any product containing this one should be avoided if you experience, burning, stinging feeling or redness.
Stearyl comes from vegetable or coconut oil and most often used for giving shampoo, conditioners, creams, and cosmetics its smooth, soft effect (4).
Cetearyl a mix of stearyl and cetyl alcohol.
This is a list of the alcohol in skin care you can use safely.
Out of all these fatty alcohols, cetyl and stearyl seem to be the worst for sensitive skin and people who suffer from rosacea (5).
Also keep in mind, the higher up on the list of ingredients the more of it in the product.
Therefore, if you are not sure about any of the above fatty alcohol ingredients, it might be best if they are further down the list.
When it comes to alcohol and skin, it is probably a good idea to use one which only has one of the above ingredients.
Alcohol And Skin
Now for the alcohols, that may or may not cause skin damage.
According to FuturDerm you don’t need to avoid alcohol in skin care, and according to Paula’s Choice you should.
The most common one many people seem confused about, myself included, is SD Alcohol or Alcohol Denat short for denatured. Is it good or bad?
Having sifted and sorted through much of the information available on the net from Skin Care Specialists to Dr’s, Chemists, and the average person. I am still confused!
Everyone it seems is divided, either for or against it (sigh).
Denatured alcohol will give the product an awful taste so that you don’t go and chug on your toner (6).
Yes, seriously, on one of those down days, your toner could look like a pretty good pick me up!
Denat will also help the product you are using penetrate the skin and kill off microbes (7).
SD alcohol is actually added to the ethanol, in other words, ethanol is denatured.
Therefore, when you and I are looking at the ingredients, and notice ‘alcohol denet‘ or ‘alcohol’ is ethanol with additives added (8).
If you are using an organic product like me, and alcohol listed way up the top, is because the organic industry will classify the ethanol they are using as organic.
Why? I hear you ask, well it is derived from fermented plants or grains.
The problem seems to be that ethanol is very drying, and no matter where it comes from, at the end of the day, it is still alcohol. I think so anyway.
Others may not agree, as alcohol in skin care is very controversial. Yet, it does seem more against ethanol and SD.
I guess alcohol and skin may cause problems if being used for a long period. I feel it is best to mix things up a bit and don’t stick to the same product.
Ok, so I went upstairs after writing this post and I threw away the organic moisturizing cream I had in the bathroom.
Disappointed, to say the least, because alcohol being the first ingredient listed, means there is more of that than anything else.
Fortunately, I never use a commercial toner on my skin, I always tone with apple cider vinegar, certainly healthier.
Sunscreen I am safe, there is no alcohol in that, I always use a natural one.
So, what are your thoughts? Alcohol in skin care, yes? No?