Tips & tricks

Alcohol in skincare products

I have always been taught to mostly try to avoid alcohol in skincare products. That said, I’m always happy to be proven wrong and learn something new about what I should or shouldn’t be doing or putting on my skin. Yesterday I was thinking about buying this Simply Pure Calming Cleanser (£2.69 for 200ml) and started researching the alcohol listed in the ingredients, which eventually led me to discover…

Turns out there’s several different kinds of alcohol, and not all are as shit as one another.

Fatty alcohols are not harmful for your skin. In fact, they can actually be particularly beneficial for dry skin, which is why quite a lot of moisturising products contain them.

Alcohol based anti-acne products appear to be helpful, but in the long term are actually very damaging for your skin. It can kill bacteria on the skins surface, but will stimulate oil production, your skin will produce more oil and break outs will continue – the exact opposite of what you want. Anti-acne products that contain milder forms of alcohol tend to be better for your skin in the long run.

Good alcohols

  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol

Bad alcohols

  • Ethanol
  • Ethylalcohol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Methanol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • SD alcohol
  • Benzyl alcohol

The main concern is when more than one of these alcohols are listed in ingredient information. However, when a product contains only one and it is in a small quantity, it is usually okay to use. For instance, this Body Shop Seaweed Cleansing Gel has several not-so-good ingredients in it (alcohols plus surfacants) and I would avoid it, despite the positive reviews on the website (though some do talk about how it makes their skin overproduce oil).

As always, this is based on my own research – I’m not a scientist or a dermatologist. I would encourage you to do your own research if you feel able to to make sure you’re clued up – though I know that’s easier said than done. And as always, if you have any questions about a product you’re unsure of, feel free to drop me a message on Twitter or here.


3 thoughts on “Alcohol in skincare products

  1. What do you mean by “small quantity” of the alcohol? Formulations don’t list concentrations. This isn’t helpful advice!


    1. As I said, I’m going by my own research. In general a small quantity means it not being the second ingredient in a product full of not-so-good ingredients, but when it’s the last thing on a long ingredient list with otherwise good ingredients in it, you’ll probably be okay. Like I said, this is based on my research – if it isn’t helpful then I encourage you to do your own.


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