Alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxyl group is bound to a carbon atom. When you see the word alcohol in your skin care product, it’s important to realize that not all types of alcohol are actually good for the skin. As a matter of fact, some alcohols are drying and irritating for your skin while others are beneficial.
The Good Alcohols
Cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and lanolin alcohol are all fatty alcohols that are good for your skin. Cetyl alcohol is derived from coconut oil and whale oil. This alcohol forms a protective barrier on the skin and locks in moisture.
Stearyl alcohol is derived from animal fast, shea butter and cocoa. It acts as an emulsifier and effective emollient. Specifically, stearyl alcohol helps water and oils to form a smooth mixture.
Cetearyl alcohol is a mix of stearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol and acts as an emollient to keep moisture in the skin. Often, this alcohol comes from coconut oil.
Lanolin alcohol is derived from the oil glands of sheep’s wool and is an excellent emulsifier. When it comes to alcohols, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and lanonlin alcohol are the good guys.
The Bad Alcohols
So which are the bad guys? It includes the ones that are actually contained in wine or beer. On skincare products, you’ll see it listed on the label as SD alcohol or denatured alcohol. Other bad guys include isopropyl alcohol, methanol, ethyl alcohol and ethanol.
Ethyl alcohols cause irritation, dry the skin, prevent the absorption of vitamin A and trigger rosacea flare-ups. All around, ethyl alcohols are a dead ringer for premature aging.
SD alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, methanol and ethyl alcohol are all drying ingredients. These alcohols strip away the skin’s natural oils and result in premature aging in addition to irritation. When you see these ingredients on the label, think more fine lines, more wrinkles and more dryness. These ingredients just fail to nourish and soothe the skin.
The “Alcohol-Free” Products
Be sure to read the label carefully and look for alcohol-free. These products don’t contain the bad guy list of alcohol ingredients. However, they do contain the fatty alcohols that are good for the skin. Even ingredients less than 1 percent must still be listed according to the FDA.
The bottom line is know your alcohols and read the label.