Is alcohol in skin care products bad for your skin?
Skin care products with alcohol will cause dryness, right? Not necessarily.
There is confusion surrounding different types of alcohol. I think that when we think of alcohol, many of us picture a bottle of drugstore rubbing alcohol. It is very drying. There are several different types of alcohol that are used in formulating skin care products. Some of these are drying, while others are emollient. The difference lies in the molecular size of the alcohol molecule as well as the amount.
In chemistry terms, alcohol really just means that a molecule has an -OH (or hydroxyl group). This hydroxyl group is attached to a carbon. There can be any number of carbon atoms in this molecule. Short chain alcohols have from 1-3 carbons while long chain alcohols are considered those with more than 8 carbons.
The drying alcohols
The drying alcohols most are us are familiar with are the common short chain alcohols: isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol. Alcohol names are often shortened by using the suffix –ol, so you may also see these listed on ingredients labels as isopropanol and ethanol. Isopropanol is rubbing alcohol. It is toxic if ingested. Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks.
In skin care isopropyl and ethyl alcohol are commonly used in harsher toners, hand sanitizers, and more. They often are used to act as a preservative or as a solvent for other ingredients in the product. If you see Denatured Alcohol or Alcohol Denat. on a product label, know that these are just other terms for ethyl alcohol.
These short chain alcohols have a drying effect on the skin because their small size allows them to penetrate more deeply into the skin. Using products with short chain alcohols will likely cause skin to become dehydrated. If you suffer from Rosacea, avoiding short chain alcohols is very important, as they are common triggers for the condition.
The “good” alcohols
Not all alcohols are bad for the skin, though. I mentioned earlier in this post how certain alcohols serve as an emollient. These are the long chain alcohols, which are essentially fatty alcohols. They are derived from natural oils such as coconut and palm. Instead of being liquids, they are waxy solids. On your ingredients labels, you will see them listed as cetyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol.
In skin care products, the purpose of fatty alcohols is to keep the water and oil emulsion together. Without it, they would separate. They also improve the texture and appearance of the product. Fatty alcohols are skin emollients and are non-toxic.
Unlike other alcohols, they actually condition and soften the skin.
While so many products say “alcohol free”, it is important to remember that this is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to skin care. Many products are more effective with the addition of fatty alcohols, especially for dry skin. For example, we use Cetyl Alcohol in our Seed Extra Moisturizing Hand Cream, Body Cream, and Body Lotion. And our newest face cream, Extra Moisturizing Face Cream, contains Behenyl Alcohol. Don’t let the word “alcohol” fool you! It actually can be beneficial.
Leave a comment
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Also in Lately I've been paying more attention
Are petrolatum-based balms the key to soft lips?
What is the first thing most people reach for when their lips are feeling dry? If you answered the traditional balm for chapped lips sold at the drugstore, you're right. Unfortunately, a crude oil-derived balm is not the best choice.
It's a common misconception that these balms help deliver moisture to the lips.
Here's what Dr. Mauro C. Rumita, who specializes in esthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery says on the subject: "Contrary to what most people believe, [some] don't hydrate the lips. Instead, they seal moisture out, so lips can't absorb it."
Do you need a physical barrier like a balm can provide? Yes, in certain situations. If you are outdoors a lot and exposed to the elements, it would be best to consider a natural balm to give your lips a layer of protection from Mother Nature. While a balm does not deliver moisture into the lips, it does protect.
Our plant based Seed Soft Balm protects without the most common ingredient found in lip balm: petrolatum. Not familiar with petrolatum? Here is a link to more information from the Skin Deep Database. It includes petrolatum's common synonyms, including "mineral grease." I don't know about you, but I don't want that on my lips.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, occasional anxiety is normal. Don't we all feel anxious around the holidays, for example? Children often feel anxious at the beginning of the new school year or the night before a big test. It's normal. I think any one of us can relate to that feeling.
But, then there are times when anxiety is more than a fleeting feeling. We're friends here. I've been sharing with you here on the Seed blog for several years. I've talked about everything from acne break outs to thoughts on skin aging. I think sometimes that it is therapeutic to write things down. If anything, I hope that sharing can help others.
Do you struggle with getting a good night's sleep? You may need to improve your sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene? Is that even real? Yes, it's a real thing! The National Sleep Foundation defines sleep hygiene as "a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness."
So, just what are some of these better practices and habits?