You may not have thought about alcohol in your moisturizer before, have you? The effects of alcohol depend on the type - some will dry out your skin and cause irritation, while others can moisturize it. In recent years, however, there has been a lot of controversy about the use of alcohol in skincare products. Should you stay away from it? In what amounts is it okay? Let’s find out about the good and bad alcohol in skincare. 

Good Alcohol in Skincare and Makeup 

alcohols to avoid in skincare

Alcohol is found in a variety of different products such as makeup, skincare, oral care, haircare, fragrances, lotions and shaving products. According to the FDA, the term refers to a group of chemicals with a variety of names and their effects on the skin. Alcohol can be added for a variety of reasons. Adding alcohol to the product will make it feel lighter and more elegant, as well as make it better absorbed by enhancing its overall feel. Additionally, alcohol may be used as a preservative, but it will not be the primary one, as there are other components that do the job. 

A Name by Any Other Name: Is it the Same?  

Here's how skincare ingredient labels list alcohol: 

1. Ethyl Alcohol in Skincare 

Ethyl alcohol is also known as grain alcohol or ethanol.  As a denatured substance, ethanol alcohol can be used as a cosmetic ingredient. 

2. Methanol or Methyl alcohol in Skincare 

You can find it in bath or body care products. It is also a denatured alcohol. 

3. Benzyl Alcohol in Skincare 

Besides naturally occurring in fruits and teas, it's also found in soaps, haircare products, cosmetics, and cleansers

4. Stearyl, Cetyl, Cetearyl or Lanolin Alcohol in Skincare 

Unlike traditional alcohols used in skin care, these are fatty alcohols. You can find them in hair conditioners, eye makeup, moisturizers, foundations, and cleansers for your skin. These are helpful for moisturizing the skin. Also, they prevent the separation of oil and liquid when used in formulations. 

5. Isopropyl Alcohol in Skincare 

The more common name for this substance is rubbing alcohol. You'll find it in nail care, hair care, and skincare products. It can be used as an antifoaming agent, an astringent, and a solvent. 

6. Alcohol Denat in Skincare  

Denatured alcohol is used in cosmetics to avoid paying taxes on alcohol. There are many products that contain denatured alcohol, including cosmetics, lotions, perfumes, haircare and skincare products. You can also call it methyl alcohol or SD alcohol. 

The Benefits of Alcohol in Products 

Many cosmetic products contain alcohol, such as body lotions, after-shaves, and fragrances. It is very versatile and is used because of the following benefits: 

1. Has antibacterial properties 

Alcohol serves as a preservative in products and its antibacterial property prevents any antimicrobial contamination.  

2. Acts as hydrolysing agent 

It dissolves ingredients such as fat, thereby proving to be an effective hydrolysing agent. 

3. Has high volatility 

Alcohol is used in cosmetics due to its high volatility. It immediately disappears as soon as you apply the product to your skin. 

The Risks of Alcohol in Products 

Apart from the benefits of alcohol, it also possesses some risks:  

1. Affects the sebum layer of the skin 

A large amount of ethanol damages the sebum layer of the skin. Since it is hygroscopic, it removes water from the skin, causing it to crack and dry.  

2. Application of products leads to a vicious cycle 

Formulations containing ethanol can quickly spiral out of control. You use a dry skin cream. Because the cream contains ethanol, the skin becomes even drier. Because the skin is drier, you have to use more cream, which dries it out even more... 

3. Not suitable for oily skin 

When you have oily skin, alcohol-based products can be tempting because they give your skin an instant matte look, which effectively removes “oil slick”. Ironically, when alcohol-based products are used to control oily skin, bumps and enlarged pores can result from the damage caused by alcohol.  

The degreasing effect of alcohol is actually counteracted by oiliness, so your oily skin ends up looking even shinier. You're spinning your wheels! 

The type and concentration of alcohol used determines whether alcohol is bad for the skin. Since alcohol evaporates completely when applied to the skin, 5% or less alcohol will have no negative effects on the skin. As a result, there is no risk of skin becoming drier. The formulation unfolds its protective properties against contamination by microbes. Comparatively, chemical preservatives are more harmful because parabens get absorbed into the skin. 

FAQs about Alcohol in Your Skincare 

What are the alcohols to avoid in skincare products? 

Methanol, denatured alcohol, and ethanol are all drying iterations to avoid. If you have sensitive skin or conditions of the skin that cause inflammation (such as rosacea), these ingredients should be avoided. 

What is acetylated lanolin alcohol in skincare? 

 It is an emollient and occlusive agent derived from lanolin alcohol. Lanolin moisturizes the skin, the hair, and the nails. Skin appears soft and smooth because of these ingredients, which act as lubricants. In cosmetics and personal care products, lanolin forms emulsions and blends well with practically any other substance due to its adhesive characteristics.