Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reader Question: Why is alcohol in skin care products bad for the skin?

Some of you observant readers will know that I prefer my skin care products without alcohol (no surprise really because I think I sound like a broken record already, repeating that so very often! Hehehe!). I got quite a few questions on this - some asked why alcohol is bad for the skin, and others asked why am I so afraid of alcohol in my skin care products. Well I don't claim to be an expert in chemistry (in fact, i almost failed chemistry in high school! :P), but these are my humble thoughts.


What alcohol in skin care product does to my skin... T_T


Before I start, let me clarify something - not all ingredient that has "alcohol" in it is bad. One good example is fatty alcohols such as Cetearyl and Stearyl alcohol which serves as thickeners or emollients that help to retain moisture in the skin, so these are ok to have. Another example is vitamin based alcohols, such as Retinol (Vitamin A), Tocopherol (Vitamin E) and Panthenol (Vitamin B5). These are "good" alcohols to have in your skin care products, although some people may experience sensitivity to them.

The group of alcohol that sends me running towards the other side of the room is the straight up "pure" alcohol - ethanol, SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, or just simply "alcohol"! When these alcohols are among the top 5 ingredients in your skin care product, they are drying and irritating to the skin and it strips the skin of its natural protective barrier, opening the skin up to a whole can of worms - sun / environmental / free radical damage as well as potentially causing the skin to overproduce sebum then tada! - you'll get acne / clogged pores.

Personally, my skin hates alcohol and it will protest by breaking out in small little bumps + acne and rewarding me with beautifully clogged skin if I insist on using it for a longer duration (example: the Biore sunblock). I've read that if these ingredients are almost at the end of the ingredient list, they do not pose any significant threat. I have broken out from products with alcohol at the very end of the ingredient list too, so I can't vouch for that myself. It could take shorter / longer to see a negative effect for your skin, but even if you don't experience any side effects from using products with alcohol, I personally do not recommend using products containing this ingredient, simply because 1. there are similar products out there sans alcohol and 2. there is no real benefit to using alcohol on the skin :)


Hopefully this answers your questions, for those who asked! :D Do let me know what you think about this ingredient - do you stay away from it like I do, or are you not fussed about it? Comment away! :D

14 comments:

  1. I, on the other hand, seem to need the Clinique toners, infamous for their alcohol content to control my skin. Strange, innit?

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  2. "... ethanol, SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, or just simply "alcohol"!" These words on the ingredients list make me put the product back on shelf too :P

    Alcohol dries out my skin and also gives me tiny red bumps, which is why I stay away from them. They exacerbate my sensitive skin condition. The ONLY notable exception is the Clarins sunblock, which has alcohol listed but I've been using it forever and it has never *Touch wood* caused me problems.

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  3. Hanny: Oh! What happens if you don't use it?

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  4. Stephanie: Yeah Hi5! Another alcohol phobic here! Hehehe!! :D

    Hmmm... funny how similar our skins are! The only product I've used "long term" without any bad side effects is the Lancome sunblock!! :D

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  5. me, i find a lot of my skincare product do contain a bit of alcohol and I'm ok with it as long as its small in amount, I try to steer away from toners with alcohol though as I can literally feel the sting :)

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  6. woah, I love your new layout! It's so clean and nice.

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  7. I don't like using products with alcohol either for the same reasons. They are drying and irritating and don't really provide any benefits for the skin.

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  8. Nikki: icic!! You're lucky that alcohol doesn't cause any problems for your skin! :D

    I know what you mean, some products stung my face because of the alcohol content :(

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  9. dar: thank you!! Glad you like it! :D

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  10. gio: exactly. Furthermore I'm sure that there are similar products out there without alcohol!

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  11. A long time ago, I used to use Clinique's toner, which had alcohol. Sure, it gave me a cooling tingling sensation upon application but I found that in the long run, it made my skin dehydrated. So I've switched to an alcohol-free toner (Dermalogica's) and have never looked back since.
    hehe...alcohol only for drinking, perhaps? :)

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  12. Haha yeah :P I try my hardest not to buy anything with the "bad" alcohol.

    Oooh! I've used the Lancome sunblock before and had no reactions to it too! :D How eerily similar haha!

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  13. giddy tigress: I LOVE wine (my husband calls me an alcoholic :P)... but my skin hates it too. Whenever I've had "too much" for my skin (eg. one glass a day for 3 days in a row), I'll start to break out on my forehead and back, and it's not those little bumps. I'll get cystic acne!! >.<

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  14. Stephanie: hehehe yeah! :D I think we have *similar* skin! :D

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