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Alcohol in Skincare - Good V.S Bad

Alcohol in Skincare - Good V.S Bad

It is known by many that the Number 1 ingredient you should avoid in skincare product is Alcohol. However, did you know that there are different kinds of Alcohol and you should not immediately dismiss a product if you see the word "Alcohol". This post will teach how to identify the good and the bad alcohols in skincare products!


There are many different kinds of alcohols, with different uses and different health effects. Some are considered safe for topical use, and others are considered unsafe. Let's first begin with THE BAD.




When companies label "alcohol-free" on the packaging, it usually refers to it being free from the Unsafe Alcohols. The bad alcohols in some skin care products are Simple or Denatured alcohols. Despite the well-known fact, why are there are still some companies still using it?


Why? The denatured alcohol are used as preservatives; some are used to get skin care formulas to the right textures; some are used to help liquid formulas dry quickly on your skin; and still others may be included in toners and cleansers to help reduce excess sebum. Denatured Alcohol can kill acne-causing bacteria on the surface of the skin, which is why some swear by alcohol-based anti-acne products to reduce their breakouts. It also quickly de-greases skin, and that instant gratification is attractive to those with super-oily complexions.


But... Denatured alcohols in your skincare are only a short-term positive effect for acne sufferers and those with oily complexions. I find it in a lot of "Luxury Branded Skincare Products", especially those i can try a sample of at the Sephora counters. When you test it by applying onto the back of your hand, it definitely feels nice as it gets absorbed into your skin quickly and leaves a very silky smooth touch. However, with long term usage of skincare products with denatured alcohol, it will strip and dry your skin over time. When used repeatedly, these alcohols can also weaken your skin’s natural barrier, making it harder for your skin to retain moisture and elasticity - making your skin more vulnerable to environmental stressors like UV radiation. Repeated use of these alcohols can even cause cell death, which will significantly increase symptoms of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, and loss of elasticity.


I perosnally don't hate the ingredient completely because it works well when used in small amounts in say spot treatments like the the Ebanel Bio-Drying Acne Treatment which is soaked in Isopropyl Alcohol. I use a cotton bud and dab it on the spots and it really helps my pimples dry up faster based on my personal experience. I personally find it ok as long as i do not over use it all over my face, only where necessary. However, i will try to avoid Toners and Moisturizers containing it as those are things i apply all over on my bare skin Day & Night.


List of the BAD Alcohols to Avoid

  • Ethanol
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Alcohol Denat




Now let me share more about THE GOOD ALCOHOLS. They are fatty alcohols are derived from natural ingredients like coconut and nuts. These fatty alcohols include cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, propylene glycol, Benzyl alcohol. They’re not drying or irritating to your skin at all. In fact, they have the opposite effect.


Due to their high content of fatty acids, fatty alcohols can actually have a positive impact on your skin. Fatty acids have emollient properties, meaning they help to improve your skin’s mositure barrier, by both locking in moisture and potentially protecting your skin from damage. These alcohols are generally used as emulsifiers, to help create a thick, luxurious texture in skin care products.


List of the GOOD Alcohols

  • Cetearyl Alcohol
  • Behenyl Alcohol
  • Myristyl Alcohol
  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Stearyl Alcohol


Here at Fickle Beauty, i carefully go through the ingredient list of products before listing the products for sale on the store. I always make it a point to avoid products with Bad Alcohols in Cleansers, Toners and Moisturizers. Almost all of the products which you find on Fickle Beauty are free from Harmful Alcohols!


You may still find it in some products especially Sunscreens because some companies use it as a preservative to help the product last longer and give a more "matte finish" which is great as your final step of your skincare routine so you don't walk around looking like a greaseball. I would still use a sunscreen with alcohol if it is in small amounts and well formulated with other beneficial ingredients but never in my toner and moisturizer sitting under the sunscreen. I MUST ADD THOUGH, if you suffer from Sensitive or Sensitized Skin, avoid it completely.


To understand more about Sensitive Skin and what to avoid, i have written a post on it! Read it (here).


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