There is a lot of contradictory information available concerning alcohol in skincare and whether or not it should be included in the products that you use on a daily basis. But while there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account, the bottom line is that you don’t need to rule out certain products just because they contain alcohol. In fact, certain types of alcohol can even be beneficial to your skin. The key is to know what to look for when shopping for cosmetic products so that you can achieve the most comprehensive results for your individual skin type and condition.
What Are the Different Types of Alcohol in Skincare?
One of the largest problems with categorizing alcohol used in skincare as either “good” or “bad” is that the term “alcohol” is a generalization in itself. There are three primary types of alcohols that you might find in the ingredient lists of various topical products. These are:
- Simple alcohols. Simple alcohols include substances such as methanol, ethanol, propanol and denatured alcohol and are primarily used in skincare for their antibacterial properties. They may also be added to act as solvents for other ingredients in the formula. Although these alcohols can dry out the skin if applied alone or in large enough concentrations, when combined with the right ingredients in the proper ratios, these alcohols shouldn’t negatively affect the skin and may aid in ingredient delivery, according to cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.
- Fatty alcohols. Some of the most common examples of fatty alcohols used in skincare products include cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol and isostearyl alcohol. Unlike simple alcohols, fatty alcohols have emollient and occlusive characteristics. These ingredients can actually help to keep the skin hydrated, making them beneficial in many types of topical products.
- Aromatic alcohols. Skincare products that contain fragrances may utilize aromatic alcohols such as benzyl alcohol or components of essential oil concentrations. These ingredients may cause skin irritation or dryness, especially for those with sensitive skin. To avoid this type of alcohol, choose fragrance-free products.
What to Look for in an Ingredient List
Because skincare products are comprised of scientifically-formulated combinations of ingredients, it’s impossible to isolate any one component of a particular product and determine whether or not it’s generally “good” or “bad.”
You can, however, gain a better understanding of how concentrated a specific ingredient is in the formula by determining its position in the ingredient list, which is organized from the most concentrated components to the least. Similarly, each ingredient will react differently depending on the makeup of the entire formula, so it’s also crucial to understand which ingredients act as complements and which may lead to negative reactions. Vitamin C, for example, can be a highly beneficial antioxidant to include in skincare, and combining it with vitamin E may help to enhance its positive effects. On the other hand, air, heat and light can break down vitamin C, rendering it ineffective (Linus Pauling Institute). In this case, the packaging, storage and formulation of this ingredient are crucial to its effectiveness as a topical serum or formula.
The same can be true for various types of topically-applied alcohols, so their presence alone isn’t enough to determine whether or not they may dry out or irritate the skin.
How to Choose an Anti-Aging Formula
A large number of skincare products contain some type of alcohol, so it can be challenging to choose the most appropriate anti-aging formula for your needs based off of this one ingredient alone. Skinbetter science Daily Treatment Cream EYE utilizes the moisturizing properties of cetearyl alcohol, a fatty alcohol, to help diminish skin dryness and lock in moisture. Its other active ingredients help to minimize the appearance of crow’s feet, under eye puffiness and darkness in the under eye area.
In much the same way, skinbetter science Daily Treatment Cream FACE contains cetyl alcohol, another common fatty alcohol, for its moisturizing properties as well. It’s combined with other revolutionary anti-aging ingredients to provide a comprehensive approach to improving the appearance of skin sagging, lines, wrinkles, loss of firmness and overall radiance.
When it comes to choosing the right skincare products for you, it’s essential to first separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to somewhat confusing ingredients like alcohol. The bottom line, however, is that seeing alcohol on the list of ingredients for a particular product doesn’t necessarily mean that it will dry out or irritate your skin. In fact, the opposite may be true, as in the case of moisturizing fatty alcohols.
If you’re unsure about which ingredients you should be looking for in anti-aging products, or if you’d like more information about where to find skinbetter science products, consult a professional in your area.