Should You Be Wary of Alcohol in Your Skincare Products?
Alcohol is one of the most controversial—and popular—ingredients in skincare. It’s been said that alcohol can damage the skin’s barrier and cause the skin to feel even drier. With how much misleading information there is online about alcohol in skincare, it’s easy to see why some people believe it really isn’t all that bad for the skin, while others avoid it at all costs.
So we check in with Jakarta-based doctor Dr Charissa Karyadi to gain insights into how alcohol in skincare impacts our skin and whether you should be wary of the ingredient. Keep reading to find out what she has to say.
Why is there alcohol in skincare and makeup?
First things first, why is there alcohol in beauty products in the first place? “Alcohol is often used for different purposes,” says Dr Charissa. “Alcohol causes the skin to contract, which gives a temporary toning effect and creates a refreshing sensation in the skin. This is why it’s used as a cosmetic astringent and often found in toners and gel moisturisers. It also de-greases the skin, making it appealing for those with oily skin.”
“It also functions as a solvent and viscosity decreasing agent, meaning that it helps other ingredients dissolve into a solution or form a thinner solution. Additionally, alcohol is often found in skincare as it helps other ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin,” she explains.
Are there “good” alcohols?
“We should differentiate between “good” and “bad” alcohols,” says Dr Charissa. Good alcohols are known as fatty alcohols, which are beneficial for the skin and help hold moisture in. They nourish the skin and are most suitable for dry skin. These good alcohols are usually listed as cetyl (product thickener), stearyl (emollient), cetearyl alcohol (emulsifier) or propylene glycol (humectant).
Is alcohol in beauty products safe?
Some alcohols are, but many aren’t. The “bad” alcohols will be listed on the ingredients list as SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol, says Dr Charissa. These evaporative solvent alcohols have long-term effects on the skin, especially in high percentages and with long term use, such as dryness, disruption of the skin microbiome and damaged skin barriers. “For those with dry, sensitive skin or rosacea, alcohol can precipitate and exacerbate dryness as well as irritation,” she adds.
With the ever-growing beauty industry and endless products available on the market, it is recommended to avoid products that have bad alcohols listed as one of the main ingredients (usually listed in the first six of the ingredient list).
“The long-term negative impacts outweigh the short-term perceived benefits, therefore consideration of alcohol is crucial when choosing products with it as one of the main ingredients,” recommends Dr Charissa.
Dr Charissa’s Beauty Pick
“Aveeno’s Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a great everyday body lotion,” recommends Dr Charissa. “It is formulated with cetearyl alcohol and colloidal oatmeal, which help restore moisture to dry and irritated skin. I have very dry and sensitive skin, and this works wonders for me!”
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