“Good” and “bad”: what alcohol should not be in beauty products

No sulfates, no parabens, no mineral oils, no dyes, no fragrances… There’s nothing they don’t make cosmetics without! But what about alcohol?

Ethanol is one of the most controversial items on the “free from” lists. Lately it has been considered a “bad, no good” ingredient, but it’s really not that simple.

“When it comes to cosmetics, we divide alcohols into two categories: simple and oily,” says Rachel Rempe, creator of her own brand of grooming products. She notes, however, that this is not the same as “bad” and “good”-it all depends on the specific purpose.

Simple alcohols

It’s their mention on the label that should cause concern: Simple alcohols, also known as volatile alcohols, can produce a severe dehydrating effect on skin that leads to dullness, excessive sebum production, sensitivity, wrinkles and itching.

But if simple alcohol does such damage, why include it at all? The fact is that methanol, ethanol, denatured, isopropyl and benzyl alcohols are used as antibacterial agents or solvents that improve product texture.

Simple alcohols can absorb excess grease, they act as preservatives and help other ingredients penetrate the skin. However, prolonged use of cosmetics with simple alcohols can lead to problems-they irritate the skin and impair its ability to renew itself.

Here are the alcohols to avoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Denatured Alcohol / Alcohol Denat
  • Methanol
  • SD Alcohol
  • Isopropyl Alcohol

Fatty alcohols

At the other end of the spectrum is a group of fatty alcohols that are good for skin, which are compounds derived from natural waxes, plants and unrefined grains.

“They have emollient and occlusive properties and make cosmetics velvety and glide nicely,” explains the creator of her own skincare brand, Christine Powell. – Oily alcohols also prevent skin dehydration, make skin soft to the touch and help stabilize active ingredients such as salicylic acid, zinc oxide and hyaluronic acid.”

Here are the alcohols that make up the group of these superheroes from the world of cosmetics:

  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Stearyl Alcohol
  • Lauryl Alcohol
  • Glycol
  • Cl2-16
  • Myristyl Alcohol
  • Cetearyl Alcohol

So do you have to avoid any alcohols?

Ultimately, it all depends on how you use them. Simple alcohols aren’t harmful if you don’t use products that include them all the time. But if plain alcohol is one of the first six ingredients in your daily remedy, it’s best to stay away from it. But fatty alcohols are good for our skin in both the short and long term, so you don’t have to worry about them unless you have a skin condition with which they are incompatible.