Friday, 30 January 2015

FAQs - Alcohol

After yesterday's post, alcohol was the most-requested topic in the comments...

As you would expect, there are mixed views throughout the industry (and it may well be clear as mud after this post).

Similar to yesterday's 'toxic' conversation, alcohol can also be discussed in terms of dosage.

Alcohol used in cosmetics can be separated into 3 groups:
Simple, Fatty and Aromatic (used in fragrances).

Fatty alcohols are used as emollients. They're thick, wax-like and non-drying. This group includes the most commonly used cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol. This type is used as a thickening agent and helps give products their slip. I think it is unfair to accuse this group of 'cell death'.

Aromatic alcohol - benzyl alcohol, in skincare, is found in the fragrances and outside of that -  head lice treatments (eew). It can be an irritant for some, not for others. It is not used in high %s in products and is usually one of the last ingredients listed on the inci list.

Simple alcohol is where the problem lies, and probably where every other alcohol gets its bad name. Used under names such as isopropyl alcohol and denatured alcohol (alcohol denat or SD alcohol) - this used in its strongest form, can be incredibly drying.
Think of the strongest astringent toners aimed at acnaic skins - they are what you don't want on your skin. This type is also used heavily in hand sanitizers, that's why they can be so drying and why I am always asked for hand creams recommendations from people working in places like hospitals.
However, some of the exfoliating toners that I use do contain alcohol and used sporadically, my skin has no issue with it.

In short, not all alcohols are created the same. Keep an eye out for astringents, and don't be overly concerned with the fatty alcohols you generally see listed in face creams and cleansers.
Just bear in mind, if it's the first thing on the ingredient list it's probably nail polish remover!



25 comments:

  1. Great post again Caroline, you're really teaching us so much!

    One question about alcohol and acid toning: Some acid toners (specifically the Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel) say "Do not use products containing alcohol afterwards". I'm wondering does this only apply to the simple alcohols you mention above? The first time I saw that instruction I freaked out and was scared my face would fall off after I used my normal moisturizer (Kate Sommerville Oil Free has Behenyl Alcohol). Is this warning only to prevent using overly drying products following such a strong acid exfoliation?

    Thanks so much! xx

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  2. It took me until I read to the bottom of the article before I realised it wasn't about alcohol for drinking!! *feels really dumb* *pours herself a glass of wine*

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    1. I started reading with same expectations. A glass of wine may be a good idea for me too. Or not, on the other hand :D.

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    2. Wine is totally healthy. *sips*

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  3. Great post again.
    As someone working in a hospital the best hand cream recommendation at an affordable price is the body shop Hemp Hand Protector, it feels quit greasy but it is great and comes into a handbag friendly size. But moreover is to reapply hand cream as often as possible.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Inga! I was hoping someone was going to share hand cream recommendations (my dry, overused hospital mitts are in a sorry state). Has anyone tried creams like DermaE that have hyaluronic acid in them? I am trying to find one to buy but I don't know if that's just overkill. I have to confess I have walked past the Indeed counter just to put Hydraluron on my hands then run out....

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  4. Lierac anti blemish keratolytic solution has alcohol in it and it's listed right after the 1st ingrédient which is water, alongside lactic acid, glycolic acid, zinc gluconate and salicylic acid... I have oily skin but this does dry my skin out. Maybe using it everyday is bad ? Or is it Just a bad product with too Much alcohol? Thx caroline you're the best xx

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    Replies
    1. would like to know that, too...what do you think about lierac's lotion from the ingredients?

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  5. Oh god - all those years I used Clinique Clarifying lotion and later Erno Laszlo Controlling Lotion - I may as well have been rubbing gin on my face!

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  6. I used rubbing alcohol to treat acne all my life and it did nothing but help. I never understood why people see it as the devil, but to each his own.

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  7. What about silicones? I'm torn.

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  8. very useful information. I have figured out(after a long time) that its the alcohol dentat that drives my face bananas. I wish I had sources of information like this years ago. It would have saved me a lot of hassle and expense.

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  9. Yeah I don't get people that use products with alcohol as the first few ingredients, especially in serums and things. I see people use serums and say how great they are meanwhile alcohol is one of the first few ingredients and I want to say to them, do you realize you're causing free-radical damage to your face in the long run? Alcohol feels great on the skin if you're oily or acne prone because it causes an instant matte finish, but overtime your skin overcompensates and produces more leading to more problems. crazy how people don't read ingredients

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    1. thank goodness there are communities like these and knowledgeable people like Caroline willing to share -- I read ingredient lists but most of the time haven't a clue what it all is and translates into on my skin. I'm just getting serious about my skincare and recently bought a serum. After a matter of days, my skin was red, irritated with dry patches. Perfect timing for this post - I was one of those people who didn't know that if denatured alcohol is the 2nd ingredient listed it is no bueno. Thank you for another informative and useful post!

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  10. Thanks for continuing to educate us, Caroline!

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  11. Hellu,

    So the iconic Liquid Gold should be avoided as alcohol denat is second on the ingr list?

    Best
    Lovisa

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  12. Hellu,

    So the iconic Liquid Gold should be avoided as alcohol denat is second on the ingr list?

    Best
    Lovisa

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    1. She has said multiple times that the other ingredients in LG overcompensate for the alcohol in it. She has praised this product

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  13. i love this category of posts!
    Well done!

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  14. does alcohol in tretinoin-products make sense as it helps penetrate the skin or does the damage outweigh the advantages? I have a md prescribed gel (isotrex) for acne and just don't know whether to continue using it or not...still have breakouts anyway

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  15. Mrs. Hirons, could you please, pretty please do FAQ on "Organic" products. Hope you, Mr and Max feel better soon. xx

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  16. Great post, I learn so much from your blog!

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  17. Hello,

    I'm confused. Please help Caroline! I use Active Serum by iS Clinical at night and Paula's Choice gives this product only one star and criticises it bitterly - mostly because of its alcohol content (SD alcohol), however all of the users on the same site rate it five stars and refute the "reviewed" claims. I looked up SD Alcohol and came across the article below (link below) which states that its a fine to use this alcohol topically and that PC have their research all wrong. What are your thoughts on this subject and on the iS Clinical serums generally? My Dermatologist sells the iS Clinical products and I've seen pretty good results...even though I have sensitive, reactive, acenic skin prone to redness and broken caps.

    https://www.futurederm.com/is-sd-alcohol-harmful-for-the-skin/

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  18. It is interesting that you sited this article, I read it earlier today and have been trying to find more information on the topic, which is how I arrived at this post. It appears that there is much misinformation based on bad studies (ingestion=topical use and the death of cells in Petri dishes containing alcohol, which also die in water). One site I found is "The Beauty Brains" they did a podcast on the subject that was quite informative. It is too bad that much of the Beauty Community appears to have jumped on the 'Alcohol is evil' bandwagon and perrfectly good products are being dismissed out of hand. A little knowledge is sometimes worse than none.

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