Let's talk about the risks of alcohol in skincare.
It may surprise you to learn how much alcohol hides away in skincare products. Alcohol is a common ingredient with many benefits for the product but not so many for your skin. However, before you throw away all of your favorite skincare products because you see "alcohol" on the ingredient list, remember that some beneficial fatty alcohols have many benefits, though they can be challenging to differentiate at first glance.
If you need help figuring out where to start, we're here to walk you through the good, the bad, and the ugly of alcohol in skincare.
Why Is Alcohol Harmful?
Alcohol is a well-known drying agent. Skincare products with a high alcohol content can disrupt your skin barrier and strip your skin of its natural oils, causing dry patches, irritation, redness, and inflammation.
A small amount of alcohol probably won't harm your skin, but it's impossible to know how much alcohol is hiding in your skincare products.
Growing accustomed to alcohol-based products can also impact your skin's ability to rejuvenate and revive itself. You may notice that your skin is drier than usual or that it's hard to keep it hydrated, no matter how much moisturizer you use. If that's the case, audit your go-to skincare ingredients to ensure there's limited alcohol in the formula.
Why Is Alcohol Added Into Skincare?
Companies use alcohol in their skincare and beauty care essentials for many reasons. For starters, alcohol is a preservative that increases the longevity and effectiveness of the other ingredients in the formula. Alcohol can also work as a degreaser, ideal for those with acne-prone skin or oily complexions.
The presence of alcohol also helps your favorite skincare products achieve that lightweight, fast-absorbing texture you know and love. But don't let this fool you.
While there are "benefits" to alcohol in skincare, the cons far outweigh the pros. Most alcohols temporarily make your skin look and feel better, but there's no real long-term benefit. It's best to build a nutrient-rich skincare routine by including ingredients that nourish your skin.
What Are The Different Types of Alcohol You Can Find In Skincare Products?
Is alcohol in skincare bad? For the most part, yes. However, it can be challenging to spot alcohol on the ingredient list, especially with so many euphemisms in use. With that in mind, there are six common alcohols to be aware of.
Here's a breakdown of what you need to know about alcohol to avoid in skincare:
Benzyl alcohol is common in skincare. This synthetic skincare ingredient is considered "safe" for the skin but doesn't provide any value to your skincare routine.
Denatured alcohol hides away in lotions, perfumes, toners, and other skincare products. This alcohol neutralizes the oils on your skin and provides that matte finish individuals look for. However, it can be harsh and strip your skin of natural oils.
Products with denatured alcohol can lead to skin sensitivities, redness, and irritation. Alcohol denat in skincare has a few different names, including methyl alcohol and SD alcohol, so keep an eye out for these labels on ingredient lists.
This denatured alcohol can pose a threat to your body. Low concentrations of methyl alcohol hide away in some beauty products, but this alcohol is considered poisonous, and overexposure can lead to health and skin problems.
This is another denatured alcohol that can cause skin dryness, cracking, irritation, and redness. While ethyl alcohol isn't harmful in small doses, regular use can damage your skin. Studies suggest that ethyl alcohol can lead to a burning sensation and shouldn't be applied topically.
Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is a staple of many skin and hair care products and is known for its antifoaming and astringent properties. Although safe for use on the skin to prevent bacteria and irritation, its ability to penetrate the skin may reduce its effectiveness in cosmetics and skin care products.
Fatty alcohols are the exception. These are considered emollients, which means they help keep your skin hydrated. The most common fatty alcohols include cetyl, lanolin, and isostearyl. These are beneficial fatty alcohols, so look at the ingredient label before you retire your favorite beauty care essentials.
The Best Alcohol Alternatives
Even if there are beneficial alcohols in skincare, it doesn't mean you absolutely must have alcohol in your routine. Alternative ingredients have the same effect as alcohol and provide even better benefits.
Here are a few alternatives we recommend over alcohol denat in skincare:
This gentle exfoliator can help rehydrate your skin, promote cell turnover, and help you achieve an even skin tone. It's derived from rice grains and is an excellent source of antioxidants. Alcohols are commonly added to exfoliants to help the other ingredients in the formula penetrate the skin.
The Essence is our 3-in-1 gentle exfoliant, toner, and hydrating essence. Alcohol alternatives formulated with phytic and salicylic acids can help address imperfections and improve clarity. This lightweight, fast-absorbing formula is gentle enough to use consistently and contains clean, sustainable ingredients.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant-rich ingredient commonly used for its brightening properties. This ingredient is safe for all skin types and can help protect your skin from signs of aging, dryness, and hyperpigmentation.
This polysaccharide is the holy grail of hydration in many skincare products, including cleansers and toners. Hyaluronic acid attracts and retains skin moisture to achieve soft, supple skin.
Our intensely luxurious and nourishing daily moisturizer, The Rich Cream, features a potent blend of hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and argan oil—three hydrating ingredients that will never dry out your skin. The Rich Cream is an effective, alcohol-free moisturizer you can count on to help you achieve soft, supple skin with every use.
Aloe Vera Leaf Extract
Aloe Vera extract is a soothing emollient with similar characteristics as fatty alcohols. It's a potent source of polysaccharides and antioxidants, and we infuse it into The Cream Cleansing Gel Cleanser, our gentle cleanser with clean, sustainably sourced essential fatty acids, minerals, and antioxidants. During our 12-week user trials, 100% agreed that their skin felt cleansed without feeling stripped.
Switch to Alcohol-Free Skincare
If you switch to alcohol-free skincare, don't be surprised if you still see alcohol on the label. Skincare products can have an alcohol-free label on the bottle and still contain any fatty acids mentioned above. Since these alcohols don't have the same impact on your skin as others, you don't necessarily need to worry about the presence of these.
Other Irritants to Avoid
Alcohol isn't the only irritant hiding away in skincare and beauty products. Many irritants can dry out your skin, cause irritation, and do more harm than good. If you're ready to commit to a clean skincare routine, be mindful of all irritants, not just alcohol. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
- Fragrance: While it may smell good, fragrance can wreak havoc on your skin. Instead, opt for “fragrance-free” skincare products.
- Parabens: Parabens are preservatives with a similar impact as alcohol. It's used in skincare and beauty products to prevent the growth of bacteria but can lead to skin sensitivities and allergies. There are four popular parabens to keep an eye out for when looking for skincare. It's best to look for skincare with a "paraben-free" label.
- Surfactants: SLS, SLES, and ALS are all surfactants and well-known irritants. When used regularly in your skincare routine, they can strip your skin of its natural oils.
Unfortunately, that's only skimming the surface of the irritants that may be hiding away in your skincare or beauty products. When you're ready to commit to a cleaner skincare routine, you'll need to be more mindful of the ingredients hidden in your products and switch to clean, sustainable ingredients.
Say Goodbye to Irritants with Augustinus Bader
Fatty acids aside, alcohol denat in skincare isn’t the best ingredient to include in your skincare routine. To get the most out of your skincare, you want to lean on solutions your skin can benefit from.
Products like The Rich Cream are formulated to protect your skin barrier and retain your skin's natural oils. If you want to add a toner to your routine, The Essence is an alcohol-free solution that uses phytic acid and salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin gently.
You're in the right place when you're ready to get more from your skincare routine and say goodbye to harsh ingredients. Our formulas are gentle, clean, and effective, and we only use sustainably sourced ingredients backed by years of research and clinical trials. You never need to worry about irritants, fragrances, or alcohol—get the peace of mind you need to make Augustinus Bader part of your everyday routine.