Alcohols. Your first thought is probably about margaritas, mojitos, or maybe pure vodka? In this blog post, I will share information about the alcohols and their usage in cosmetic products (sorry guys, not cocktails in here). But as you are already in this article, check out the 8 easy cocktail recipes, to be able to process the information from this article better.
If you think that this information will be useful to you, keep reading!
Now, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Benefits of alcohols in cosmetics
In order to present the benefits of alcohols most simply, I will divide them between the different alcohol types.
Benefits of isopropyl, ethyl, and denaturated alcohol
They ensure that cosmetic products are disinfected, sanitized, and safe for use. They make the products dry quickly, remove all bacteria and oils from the skin/hair, and shrink the pores. Those alcohols give airy and lightweight texture to the personal care products and help other active ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin.
Benefits of aromatic alcohols
They increase the shelf life of the cosmetic products. This is good both for the manufacturing companies and for us, the consumers. The manufacturing companies save money by reducing the risk of obsolete inventory, and we benefit from the fact that the products do not go off soon after we open them.
Benefits of fatty alcohols
Fatty alcohols are an excellent alternative for people with dry skin or people who are sensitive to regular alcohols (ethyl, isopropyl, alcohol denat). They have a high content of fatty acids, and when applied, they hydrate the skin and hair. Moreover, they create a protective barrier, so the moisture does not evaporate. These alcohols are a great alternative to sulfates because they act effectively as foaming agents, without leaving the hair and skin squeaky clean and over-washed, but moisturized. This is the reason why the curly girl method approves fatty alcohols as shampoo and conditioner ingredients.
Are alcohols in cosmetic products harmful?
The short answer is: Yes! Most of the alcohols used in cosmetics are actually harmful to the skin and hair. I am sure you already know which alcohols are bringing us more harm than benefits. Let’s see in detail.
- Because isopropyl, ethyl, and alcohol denat are evaporating the water from the skin and hair surface, they can be extremely drying and dehydrating. As they penetrate deep into the skin layers, they absorb the natural oils and moisture from inside. Moreover, kill all the bacteria which is on the skin: both good (natural bacteria that the body produces itself) and harmful (external germs and microorganisms).
- Aromatic alcohols are usually very concentrated, and a small amount of them is used in cosmetic products. However, because of their toxicity, they can cause allergic reactions and destroy the healthy barrier of the skin.
- Fatty alcohols are the ones that are least harmful to the people, BUT they have a negative effect on sensitive skin types. Some studies share that in the long run use, the combination and reaction between different fatty alcohols can release comedogenic molecules. As a result, you may experience blocked pores and breakouts.
How can products with alcohols harm you?
Products with alcohol content can cause the following problems:
- Destroyed epidermis lipid barrier. The skin will become more prone to free radical damage (damage caused by pollution, stress, UV light, malnutrition, etc.)
- Dry, dehydrated, flaky, dull, red, tight, or textured skin
- Fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation
- Allergic reactions: itchiness, rash, redness, swollen areas of the body, burning sensation, open wounds
- Flaky and itchy scalp
- Dry, frizzy, thin hair, which is difficult to style
As already mentioned, the drying alcohols have alternatives: fatty alcohols. But what if you need to exclude all kinds of alcohol from your personal care products? Have a look at my articles with detailed information about ingredients appropriate for dry skin & ingredients for oily skin. In short:
- To moisturize the skin use alternative moisturizing ingredients, such as ceramides, natural oils, glycolic acid, aloe vera, dimethicone.
- If you want to have control over your oily skin, use natural oils, salicylic acids, and clay.
- A harmless alternative to alcoholic preservatives is sorbic acid.
Always check the ingredients list on the packaging! This will save you a lot of money, skin and hair problems.