Alcohol in Skincare: Is it the Devil and Should You Avoid It?
by WISHCOMPANY INC on May 05, 2021
1. What is alcohol?Alcohol in chemistry terms actually means a molecule with a hydroxyl group at one end and it encompasses a vast number of organic molecules. This includes alcohol that you drink, rubbing alcohol for your wound to even retinol. Although fall into the same group of ‘alcohol’ they can have a very different structure, weight, and properties. However, when we are talking about skincare, alcohol is closely linked to ingredients that are irritating and drying for your skin that originates from the nature of ‘ethanol’. Although it may be right for a certain type of alcohol by itself, however, there are a lot of other factors that have to be taken into account. On top of that, there are a lot more other types of alcohol that can actually benefit and hydrate our skin!
2. Types of alcoholHere are the two types of alcohol we commonly see in skincare products:Simple alcohol is low molecular weight alcohol. Meanwhile, fatty alcohol derived from the fatty acids in plant/vegetable oils leaves a thick, waxy texture at room temperature as an emollient in skincare.
• Fun fact :glycerin and butylene glycol which work as a humectant on your moisturizer are also alcohol since it holds the –OH hydroxyl group. Contrary to popular belief, this type of alcohol is super moisturizing instead.
3. Benefits and drawbacks of alcohol
1) Simple alcohol in skincare :Simple alcohol is a volatile ingredient that evaporates pretty quickly. The fear behind simple alcohol came from the fact that simple alcohol at much higher concentration (60-80% alcohol) has been shown to be irritating and damaging the skin barrier. This comes irrelevant sometimes when it comes to skincare since they serve their own purpose in a formulation for some of these reasons :
• Dissolves ingredients (solvents)
• Facilitate penetration
• Extraction of plant extracts
• Improves texture
• Texture enhancer