Alcohol in skincare products has been a point of discussion for as far as I can remember. One says: no way! The other will say: no problem …
Now what to believe?
The word alcohol refers to a group of substances, that can have various effects on our skin. Not just on skin, by the way!The glass of wine, Prosecco or Limoncello you have, might also have a certain effect on you: but this is more related to quantity, isn’t it J?
Where skin care is concerned, there are two groups of alcohols: de “good ones” and the “bad ones”.Does this mean, that not every alcohol is bad for your skin? Indeed, that’s exactly what it means!
Bad alcohols have a “low molecular weight” (this is chemistry),good alcohols have a “high molecular weight”. De bad ones DRY OUT YOUR SKIN, while the good ones HYDRATE. It’s as simple as that.
The bad guys are: Isopropyl Alcohol (Isopropanol), SD Alcohol, Alcohol denat. (sometimes just “alcohol”), Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol), and Benzyl Alcohol. They dry out your skin, because they dissolve all the lipids (oils), that are naturally present on (in) your skin. Theoretically, this would mean they also disrupt your skin balance. Taking away all the lipids means you also take away all the MOISTURE, which is not ok, of course.
Amongst the good guys are Cetearyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol and Cetyl Alcohol; these are MILD for your skin and even help lock in MOISTURE !
The very gentle Butylene Glycol and Pentylene Glycol also belong tot his group of ingredients and also have MOISTURE BINDING properties.
Does this mean, that all products with a “bad alcohol” are completely useless? No, absolutely not!One has to consider their dosage in the product. This is difficult to check for us, as the exact percentages aren’t mentionned on the ingredients list. However, the higher the ingredient is on the list, the higher its percentage will be.
To give you an example:Isopropyl Alcohol as the second or third ingredient, is quite different from being somewhere half way or towards the end of the list. In that case, the amount is probably neglectable and will have no negative impact on your skin.
The TYPE OF PRODUCT also determines, whether “good” or “bad” alcohols are used. A tonic designed for oily skin, will be more likely to have some “bad” alcohol than, let’s say, a product for dry skin types. Anyway, a tonic will be more likely to have some alcohol, because of the “refreshing” effect it has on skin.
Now you will wnat to know how to pick your products! This is how I CHOOSE MY PERSONAL SKINCARE and WHAT CRITERIA I USE:
- When a SERUM or a CREAM, has a “bad” alcoholwithin the first 5 ingredients on the list, it’s in no way an option for me. There are enough other products on the market, that don’t have this problem, so I’ll go for an alternative. “Good alcohols”, however, are very welcome !
- In case of a toner, I will look at its purpose, skin feel and smell. Meaning : in case of an exfoliating (peeling) toner, I might forgive the presence of alcohol. Especially, if the bad one is compensated by some “good ones” or by Glycerin and Butylele/Pentylene Glycol.
- If, however, I can clearly feel or SMELL the alcohol (like with rubbing alcohol), I’ll discard the product.
- What is “too much” in one brand, can be perfectly ok for me in another brand !
I hope that, after reading this article, you’ll be able to see more clear and select your skin care products with some extra expertise. Enjoy your shopping!