Updated 12/2/19. As consumers, you put great effort into educating yourself on proper skincare, which means looking at ingredients before purchasing skin products to make sure there are no harsh or harmful ingredients being used.
If you look at the ingredient list and you see the word, “alcohol,” most people would assume that the product is drying to the skin. But the truth is that all alcohols affect the skin differently, and many are not harmful. So the answer is FALSE. Do not avoid using all skincare products that contain alcohol.
In the world of cosmetic chemistry, “alcohol” is a molecule with an -OH (hydroxyl) group.
Did you know that Vitamins A and E are actually alcohols even though they don’t mention the word alcohol in their name? Alcohols can be humectants, solvents, emulsifiers, surfactants, and antioxidants.
Beneficial alcohols (those with a high molecular weight) commonly used in skincare products include:
Tocopherol (Vitamin E, a free radical fighting antioxidant)
Cetyl Alcohol (product thickener)
Oleyl Alcohol (emollient)
Arachidyl Alcohol (emollient)
Stearyl Alcohol (emollient)
Propylene Glycol (a humectant that binds moisture into the skin)
“Bad,” or drying, alcohols (those with a high molecular weight) commonly used in skincare products include:
*SD Alcohol 40 (evaporative, solvent alcohol)
These are extremely drying to the skin and should be avoided.
*Note: In blemish products, solvent alcohols can be useful for drying out breakouts.
Bottom line: You should not avoid ALL alcohols in skincare products because not all alcohols are the same.
Want to learn the truth about more skincare ingredient myths? Read this post.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”