Ingredients Watch: Alcohol in Skincare
Alcohol in skincare is a hot topic. There are many articles out there with contrasting views; one will slate the use of any alcohol in products while another states it's not really that bad for your skin. Well, the answer isn't really all that simple and it takes a look through the ingredients list to separate the good and the bad alcohol.
What types of alcohol should I avoid?As a general rule, you should avoid derivatives of ethyl alcohol. You'll often find these labeled as SD alcohol, ethanol, denatured/alcohol denat, isopropyl, methanol or ethyl alcohol. Products containing these types of alcohol should be avoided, especially if it features within the first five ingredients on the listing.These types of products leave the skin dry, dehydrated and destroy the skin's natural lipid barrier over time. This type of alcohol is what is often found in the cocktails you drink and we all know how dull and dry our skin looks after a night on the town!
If alcohol is bad for the skin, why is it included in products?These types of alcohol are often included to provide a more pleasing application to heavy skincare products. Products with alcohol feel weightless on the skin and leave a smooth, matte finish. Unfortunately for those of us with oily, problematic skin, alcohol is often used to achieve this lightweight feel, which strips the skin of natural oils and stimulate the over production of sebum, causing a never ending oil-breakout cycle.Another reason alcohol is often used is because it allows other ingredients to penetrate further into the skin. Our skin has an incredibly defense mechanism that works hard to keep things out, which can occasionally mean skincare products too. Alcohol breaks down this barrier so that you vitamin C, retinols and other actives can be easily absorbed. However, this barrier is there for a reason and long term disruption can lead to sensitivity, dryness, irritation and redness. Opting for cosmeceutical formulas with clever delivery systems will cut out the need for alcohol to increase absorption.
Can alcohol be good for the skin?
This is where things start to get a little confusing. Not all alcohol was created equally and just because some of it is potentially harmful to the skin, it shouldn't be ruled out all together. Fatty alcohols include cetyl, stearyl and benhenyl alcohol, and this group do not cause the harm traditionally associated with alcohol-ridden products. Fatty alcohols are used as emollients in products and can be a very beneficial addition to dry skins.
Once you've sussed out the difference between ethanols and fatty alcohols, a quick skim through the ingredients listings of your products will highlight whether it's time to ditch.
If you're still confused, you can always call our skincare advisors on 0113 282 7744 before your next purchase to make sure!
Written for you by: Ellie, Face the Future