Alcohol in Skincare: The good, the bad, the harmful
If you thoroughly cleanse your face in the morning only to become an oil-slick by afternoon, it might be time to take a serious look at the ingredient labels of your skincare. Alcohol might be the prime suspect here — often added to toners, moisturisers or cleansers for an immediate “clean” or “matte” effect.
The ingredient works by dissolving the skin’s natural oils and (temporarily) shrinking pores. Over time, dehydrated skin overcompensates by churning out even more oil.
Don’t be too quick to throw away that bottle of toner though! According to the literature, alcohol ingredients are generally divided into two camps: “bad” denatured alcohols and “good” fatty alcohols.
The general consensus around denatured alcohols suggests that it weakens the natural skin barrier over time, leaving one open to potential oxidative damage (read: premature ageing). This form of alcohol masquerades under a variety of guises so be sure to look out for:
— SD Alcohol 40
— SD Alcohol 40B
— Denatured Alcohol
— Alcohol Denat
— Dehydrated Ethanol
— Alcohol Denatured
Meanwhile, fatty alcohols are only named that way due to its similar chemical structure to the alcohols above. Derived from natural oils and fat, these alcohols are emollient, thick and velvety — sounds great for helping the skin keep moisturised! Here are some fatty alcohols that can be found in skincare:
— Cetearyl alcohol
— Stearyl alcohol
— Cetyl alcohol
— Myristyl alcohol
— Aracidyl alcohol, derived from natural sources, also found in our Oxygenating Day and Restorative Night moisturisers.
All things considered, any product that leaves your skin feeling “tight” should be considered a red flag. A reasonable pearl of wisdom would be to avoid skincare that lists denatured alcohol amongst the first few ingredients, which indicates a higher percentage in the formula.