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Can Alcohol-Based Products Be Used For Skin Care?

Most of us doubt whether or not skin care product containing alcohol should be used. But for your knowledge, not all alcohols are bad for the skin. Some love your skin as much as you do. Alcohol is a highly misunderstood ingredient when it comes to skin care. It does make the skin dry and is therefore excluded from most of ours beauty routines.

Whether alcohol is good or bad in the skin care product also depend a lot on your own skin type.

Alcohol is an organic compound often used in beverages and medication since ages. It is known for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. The preservative and solvent properties make it an additional product in the skin care industry. Alcohol is present in almost all the skin care products such as creams, body lotions, toner, or cleansers.

Role of Alcohol in Skin Care Products

Alcohol being added to the skin care products by the manufacturers has many reasons:

  • It acts as a solvent and help in mixing other ingredients in the product.
  • Alcohol is an antiseptic which kills the bacteria.
  • The emulsifying properties of alcohol help blend the two different substances together.
  • As a preservative, it minimizes the spoilage of the product.
  • Alcohol acts as a buffer, stabilizer, and an astringent.

Alcohol also makes a very thick skin care product feel weightless on the skin. Also, it makes the ingredient such as vitamin C and retinol, sink deep into the skin. It does so by breaking down the skin barrier which is responsible for keeping the skin healthy. Breakdown of the barrier makes the skin sensitive and irritable.

Types of Alcohol Used in Skin Care Products

Mainly three types of alcohols are used in the skin care products.

  • Simple alcohol
  • Fatty alcohol
  • Aromatic alcohol

Simple Alcohol

Simple alcohol such as ethanol, methanol, ethyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and denaturated alcohol are water like substances which are derived from starch, sugar, and other carbohydrates. They are antibacterial but can dry out the skin and make it sensitive. They dry out quickly weakening the skin protective barrier making the skin sensitive and irritable.

Any skin care product containing simple alcohol should be avoided.

Fatty Alcohol

Fatty alcohols, unlike simple alcohol, have a thick texture and emollient properties. They give a velvety and a creamy feeling in the skin care products, making the product slide on the skin smoothly.

Caprylic alcohol, Behenyl alcohol, Decyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Lauryl alcohol, Oleyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, Isostearyl alcohol, and Cetyl alcohol are fatty alcohol.

Fatty alcohols are used in skin care products as emulsifiers, emollients, and thickeners. They are non-drying and do not harm the skin, but should be avoided by those with sensitive skin, as it might irritate the skin. A study showed mild irritation on the skin of the albino rabbit on the application of cetyl alcohol.(1)

Aromatic Alcohol

Benzyl alcohol is the most common alcohol used in skin care products. It is similar to the simple alcohol but has a pleasant fragrance. It is used in the products as a preservative or for fragrance.

Can Alcohol-Based Products Be Used For Skin Care?

Depending on your skin type you can choose the products. Those containing fatty alcohol can be tried. People with dry skin should avoid the alcohol-based product, as it may irritate it more.

Do what is best for your skin. Make a right choice.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 18, 2022

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