Alcohol in Skin Care Products- Good or Bad?

Alcohol in Skin Care Products- Good or Bad?

There is a lot of confusion about whether alcohol in skin care products is good or bad. And not to mention, there are a lot of misleading conceptions about the same because no confusion is ever without a misconception. You must have often heard that alcohol dries up your skin and will also increase the chances of premature aging and skin damage which is why you should use alcohol-free products. Well, it is partially true. Whether alcohol will harm your skin or not solely depends on the amount and type of alcohol used in the product.

Let us understand the functions of alcohol in skincare first.

It can act as

1.    A solvent i.e. dissolve something or thin out some mixture,

2.    An emulsifier i.e. help in blending two mixtures

3.    A stabilizer i.e. prevent unwanted reactions

4.    An anti-septic i.e. kill bacteria

5.    A preservative i.e. minimize bacterial growth

6.    A buffer i.e. balance pH balance

7.    A penetration enhancer i.e. delivering the ingredient into the skin

8.    Fragrance enhancer

Now that we know the different roles played by alcohol in skincare products, let us learn about the good and bad alcohols.

Bad Alcohol In Skincare Products

Most of the alcohols are similar to pure alcohols which are considered to be bad because they have a drying element in them. Alcohols which have been listed in the ingredients with the label

•    SD alcohol,

•    denatured alcohol,

•    isopropyl alcohol,

•    ethanol,

•    ethyl alcohol,

•    benzyl alcohol etc.

are those which are considered as bad or dangerous alcohol in skincare. These are used in spite of their demerits because they act as

•    good solvents,

•    astringents,

•    preservatives, 

•    absorber,

•    fast dryer

They are dangerous because they

•    make the skin dry

•    cause irritation to the skin

•    might damage the skin

•    can cause worse acne

•    disrupt the natural protection barrier


Good Alcohol In Skincare Products

Now that we have had an idea about the bad alcohols, let us know something about good alcohol in skin care products. The good alcohols, also known as fatty or wax alcohols are non-irritating and are very beneficial for the skin as they are derived from natural fats and oils mostly from coconut or palm oils. Even laboratories can prepare these skin-healthy fatty acids or they can be derived from petroleum sources as well. You will find them in the ingredients list by the label

•    cetyl alcohol,

•    cetearyl alcohol,

•    glycol,

•    stearyl alcohol,

•    behenyl alcohol,

•    myristyl alcohol,

•    oleyl alcohol,

•    caprylic alcohol etc.

They are good because they

•    provide a smooth and velvety feel to the skin

•    act as emulsifiers i.e. mix water and the oils proportionately

•    are a natural moisturizer

•    help in making the formula thick enough for the right consistency.


Alcohol is both good and bad for your skin. It is you who has to decide which product you choose. In most cases, you must try and select the product which you find suitable for your skin type and you feel is the right choice for skin care. If you wish to decide based on the ingredients, look at the first 6 ingredients in the composition and make your choice. And of course, not to forget, natural products are always available out there for your service. 

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