Monday, June 25, 2012

Alcohols in Skincare: Good or bad?

We've all heard at one point or another to steer clear of any skincare products containing alcohol. They can dry out your skin, cause irritation, and lead to premature aging. However, not all alcohols are bad. Alcohol can exist in its pure form (ethanol), or by attaching itself to another compound. It is in the latter instance that you actually want to see the word alcohol on the back of your product listing. 

Products containing the following alcohols should be avoided. They can dry your skin out or cause long-term damage. Products containing these alcohols quickly dry the oil from the skin, so when you are initially using these products, like acne solutions, you may notice a quick improvement in your skin's condition. However, after long-term use, your skin problems will be back, and you will start to think the product is not working.

  • ethanol
  • ethyl alcohol
  • denatured alcohol (alcohol denat.)
  • methanol
  • SD alcohol 
Products containing the following alcohols are good! These are called "fatty alcohols," because, in short, they are derived from fats (or lipids).
  • cetearyl alcohol
  • cetyl alcohol
  • stearyl alcohol
Wash & Buff and Cleanse & Shave are just two EVMAN products that use cetyl alcohol, an ingredient that moisturizes skin.
However, it's also important to note that the "dose makes the poison." Where is the alcohol listed in the ingredient listing? If it's the first ingredient, it is of the highest concentration, whereas ingredients at the end of the product are typically less than 1% of the product. So, you may see a product containing benzyl alcohol as the last ingredient. This alcohol is used as a preservative in the product and is perfectly safe to use.