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About Alcohol in Skin Care

Many customers associate alcohol with skin dryness, itching and irritation, but contrary to the popular belief, not all alcohols are created equal. In fact, some of them are actually good for the skin. Alcohols are organic ingredients which contain C-OH or hydroxyl group in their molecular structure. There are many varieties of alcohols with vastly different properties.

Alcohols to avoid.

Below is a list of alcohols, they are generally good solvents with antibacterial, antiseptic and astringent properties. They quickly evaporate from the skin’s surface, robbing it of water, which may lead to skin dryness and irritation. The purpose of these are to inhibit microbial growths and extend shelf life . . . even though there are known allergic and toxic effects and even though these chemicals are suspected of being hormone disruptors.

– SD alcohol or super denaturated alcohol

– Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol

– Isopropyl Alcohol- Isopropanol is derivative of petroleum and is used in antifreeze as well as a host of other consumer products such as paint thinners and household cleaning products and disinfectants. It is easily absorbed through the skin and is twice as toxic as ethanol. The vapour is also dangerous. The side effects of inhalation of isopropanol include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, and even narcosis and coma.

– Amyl alcohol

– Alcohol denat or Denatured alcohol

– Methanol or methyl alcohol.

– Propyl alcohol,

Isopropyl Alcohol or Isopropanol is extensively used in surgical swabs where it acts as an antiseptic. Ethanol can be found in hand sanitisers and a variety of skin care products, particularly perfumes, toners, aftershaves, some sunscreens and less often, in creams and lotions. It is usually listed on the label as Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol or SD Alcohol or Alcohol denat. If these ingredients are found at the top of the ingredients list on the label, it is very likely that the product will be extremely drying on the skin.

Note on Benzyl alcohol.

Benzyl alcohol is an aromatic alcohol that occurs naturally in e.g. Strawberries and essential oils and is often an ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. Benzyl alcohol kills or inhibits the growth of a broad spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and mould and can be used for conservation of all water-containing products. This alcohol is usually found at the end of an ingredient list.

Alcohols That Are Good

There are cosmetic alcohols that are actually very beneficial for the skin. Also known as fatty alcohols, they help skin care formulations to act as efficient skin care products. Fatty alcohols may function as emollients or humectants to moisturize skin. They may also possess cleansing properties and may be added to formulations to thicken them. Examples of good alcohols are Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol and Behenyl Alcohol. They are waxy oil-soluble ingredients mainly derived from coconut oil.

Another example is vitamin based alcohols, such as Retinol (Vitamin A), Tocopherol (Vitamin E) and Panthenol (Vitamin B5). These are “good” alcohols to have in your skin care products, although some people may experience sensitivity to them. These are skin moisturisers.

Certified organic skincare ranges that contain good alcohols use alcohol ingredients that are sourced from natural plant sources and are not synthetic.

Note on Lanolin alcohol=Lanolin alcohol is obtained by processing wool fat. It helps to create stable oil in water emulsion, soften and nourish the skin.

Note on Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virgiana) – improves skin tone, helps restore circulation, soothes inflamed skin and fights broken capillaries. Witch hazel works as an astringent and anti-inflammatory and is great for tried, sluggish, oily, dry, and infected skin.