There are generally two types of alcohols; denatured and fatty.
This is the type of alcohol that we drink; called Ethyl Alcohol or Ethanol, but to be used in beauty products it goes through a denaturing process, which basically gives it a bitter taste and prevents it from being drinkable. It is also extremely drying on the skin and can be very irritating. I have oily/combo, spot prone skin and I actively try to avoid this ingredient when looking for new beauty products. It dries my skin out terribly, which in turn causes it to over produce oil in attempt to moisturise it. This excess oil then clogs my pores and produces horrible breakouts.
If you wish to avoid this ingredient, look out for the following names on ingredients labels:
Alcohol Denat(e), SD Alcohol and all variations of it, Alcohol.
Fatty alcohols are typically derived from coconut or palm. They are solid at room temperature and are melted specifically for use in the beauty industry. Fatty alcohols tend to be used to for their moisturising properties and their ability to emulisfy oil into water. Therefore they are the exact opposite of denatured alcohol and will not dry out the skin. Of course this isn't to say that fatty alcohols will not ever be irritating - everyone's skin will be irritated by something at some point!
Fatty alcohols can be identified on ingredients labels as any of the following:
Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Alcohol and Myristyl Alcohol.
I hope that this post has been helpful in some way - I do think this area can be confusing and I'm trying to become more savvy with what I use on my skin! I also did another "Ingredients in Cosmetics" post here, which explains how they're ordered and what this means.
Do you check the ingredients labels on makeup and skincare products? What ingredients do you actively avoid?
Beauty Bird xx