Thursday, 19 June 2014

Ingredients in Cosmetics: Alcohol

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Alcohol isn't just something we drink, but also something that features as an ingredient in cosmetics and skincare. However it can be quite confusing as there are different types of alcohols and this something I have learnt very quickly, after discovering that certain alcohols irritate and dry out my skin, causing it to become clogged and spotty. 

There are generally two types of alcohols; denatured and fatty. 

Denatured Alcohol

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

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




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12 comments

  1. Such an informative post, I'm going to bookmark this!

    Tara x

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    1. Thanks Tara, so glad you found it helpful! xx

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  2. Denatured alcohol also helps to mix water with oil, and it usually helps the make formulas a bit thinner and more pleasant to apply. I'm very torn on this ingredient, as there is lots of research showing its irritating effects on skin, but denatured alcohol is used in lots of high end Asian skincare, which I find work well with my Asian skin.

    Cindy | cicique.blogspot.com

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    1. I think if it works for you, doesn't irritate your skin and you're not trying to use all natural skincare then that's great, everything works differently for different people. I didn't realise it helped mix water with oil, thank you for letting me know! xx

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  3. I am quite torn on this ingredient, I tend to find it depends on the overall formulation whether it is a problem for my skin or not but generally prefer skincare without it, great post lovely Xx

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    1. I've used some products with denatured alcohol in before, but only if they're right towards the end of the ingredients list so I know it's not very concentrated. Thank you Ana! xx

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  4. I'm actively avoiding many ingredients and I do keep my eye out for Denatured Alcohol as I feel it can upset my sensitive, eczema prone skin

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    1. This is why clear labelling is so important, so we can make sure we know what we're putting on our skin :-) xx

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  5. Thank you for this! I knew alcohol Denat was bad but I didn't know it was irritating my skin!!

    Danniella x
    www.famousinjapan.co.uk

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    1. If you see no noticeable effects from it then that's great, whether it's irritating the underlying skin I'm not sure... My skin looks awful and breaks outs when I drink alcohol and I get the same thing with products containing it xx

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  6. I have never heard about this one! Thanks for letting me know! :)
    I read ingredients on the packaging lately, I'd usually avoid parabens, but sadly I still have some of my favorite skin care that use them :|

    xx
    http://felishmichelle.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, glad you found the post helpful! I'm trying to go much more natural with my beauty products these days xx

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