Can Alcohol Ever Be Good for the Skin?
Last summer, I went on vacation to Singapore for a med check. Of course, being me, that meant 1 day of med check and 3 days of shopping but I digress. So as I was looking around Watsons, I saw a new Japanese skincare product that was made for sensitive skin. Naturally, I was intrigued. I then looked into the ingredients as I always do. There it was. Alcohol denat 2nd on the list. How could this be remotely safe for sensitive skin. It even had a freaking baby on the ads like would you slather alcohol on your baby? Nah, girl. Alcohols for drinkin, not slathering.
There is a lot of marketing going on in beauty right now that even alcohol, a known irritant and skin fiend, is considered good–even essential in skincare. How the f*ck did we get here? Ingredients laden with alcohol typically has a lightweight, quick-drying feel on the skin so I do see the appeal in that. Many people with acne-prone or oily skin are also obsessed with the matte feeling alcohol has on their skin. The research, however, clearly states that alcohol is not good for the skin.
The way that alcohol works is usually by improving the texture of the product. It can make a heavy skincare product feel deceptively weightless. It also penetrates the skin's lipid barriers to let other ingredients sink into the skin. The problem lies here unfortunately. It doesn't just penetrate, it breaks down the skin's barrier, damaging it and leaves the skin vulnerable in the long term. Counterintuitive if you think about it.
What you need to look out for is Alcohol Denat or Ethanol.
There are good types of alcohol too!
Other than the ones you drink (which are great until your body fails you), fatty alcohols are not harmful for the skin at all. Unlike denatured alcohol, these are not products of fermentation, rather hydrolysis from fats and oils. Often called Cetyl Alcohol or Stearyl Alcohol, they're used as emulsifiers and emollients and can actually be beneficial for dry skin.
Bottom line is, be smart about which alcohol is good for you and always read your ingredients lists. Like those handsome bad boys, alcohol might be attractive at first, but you know the relationship is just gonna be complete sh*t when you realize they're toxic for you and do more harm than good.
Source: Paula's Choice