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The Truth About Alcohol in Skincare

Alcohol in skin care doesn’t have the best reputation. While some alcohol deserves its skin-ruining rep, alcohols are an extremely diverse bunch and many are beneficial! The truth is, Benzyl alcohol and fatty alcohols can be helpful and even necessary in your skincare routine.

Depending on the type of alcohol, it can play a few different roles in your products.

Most commonly alcohol in skin care acts as a preservative to keep mould from growing. No one likes to find fungus in their face cream or cleanser! If a product contains water, it needs a preservative to keep bacteria out and keep the formulation stable.

Alcohols can also be used to enhance product texture for a silky smooth feeling and help boost moisture levels in the skin.

Some alcohols are also known to increase the penetration of active ingredients like vitamin C and retinol in the skin.

Benzyl Alcohol in Skin Care

Benzyl alcohol is found naturally in essential oils, plants and can also be synthetically made. Thanks to its preservative properties it’s commonly used in skincare to prevent bacteria growing and formulations becoming mouldy.

Is benzyl alcohol bad for the skin? When used in a correct concentration, benzyl alcohol is considered a safe ingredient. It’s an approved preservative under the COSMOS Organic Certification criteria.

Although it is a very safe ingredient, if you have sensitive skin, we always recommend doing a patch test with any product containing benzyl alcohol.

Alcohols Derived from Fats

Fatty alcohols are derived from natural plant and animal fats.

The different types of fatty alcohols you might see on an ingredients list include cetearyl, steararyl, cetyl and behenyl alcohol.

They’re usually included in products used as emollients and thickeners to improve the texture of the product and help trap moisture into the skin.

Fatty alcohols are very safe and unlikely to irritate the skin. They can actually be very beneficial for dry skin thanks to their emollient properties which help make the outer layer of the skin feel smoother and softer.

Alcohol Denat in Skin Care 

This is the type of alcohol you want to avoid in skincare!

Denatured alcohol, also known as alcohol denat, isopropyl alcohol, and SD alcohol is often used to preserve products. It’s also used in some over-the-counter acne treatments as the alcohol acts as an astringent to target bacteria and excess oil.

While you might see an improvement initially using acne products with alcohol denat in skin care, it’s very harsh on the skin. Over time it will damage the skin barrier, stripping the skin of the healthy oils it needs.

This results in inflammation, sensitivity, patches of extremely dry skin as well as increased oiliness and more breakouts.

Is Alcohol Bad in Skin Care?

Ultimately, it depends on the kind of alcohol and the concentration in your skin care products. Benzyl alcohol and fatty alcohols are generally considered very safe for skin.

When used in safe concentration, some alcohols are necessary preservatives used to create high quality, long lasting products and prevent formulations going bad.

Plus, some have the added benefit of improving moisture levels and softening the skin.

If you’re concerned, the best thing to do is patch test a small amount of your neck area. This can help you avoid a potential allergic reaction to any type of alcohol in the product.

If you have any questions at all about the ingredients used in esmi Skin Minerals range, reach out! Our expert team of skin consultants are here to help you!

Infographic_the truth about alcohol in skin care