Alcohol - good or bad component in cosmetics

How many times in the past have you heard people talk about alcohol like it’s a horrible ingredient in cosmetic products?  Over here at the office, we’ve heard it tons of times!  This is an age-old ingredient, and something which actually has a lot of different substances combined within it.  There are even other types of alcohols that are designated as fatty alcohols, but aren’t actually labelled a real alcohol.  You can find it in the list of INCI ingredients in your cosmetic products, either under the name of Stearyl alcohol or Cetyl alcohol, etc...

Let’s take a look now at the “real” alcohols- more precisely ethanol alcohol, which is often used in cosmetics.  We can find the rough form of “alcohol”, or alcohol’s denatured form known as “denatured alcohol”, in the list of INCI ingredients. It can have vegetal origins, fermented fruit origins, or come from cereals that have been synthetically extracted from ethanol.  It is used for its:

  • very efficient antiseptic action (antibacterial, antifungal, and antivirus)
  • solvent uses, including preparation of perfumes or dyes
  • preservative properties:  particularly for certain natural brands.  When combined with other vegetal substances, it makes a good preservative alternative, and avoids resorting to chemical ingredients with aggressive preservatives.

It’s important to know that it does produce a quick-drying finish effect on the skin, which could damage the hydrolipid film, our first protective barrier in our skin!  But as usual it’s necessary to be familiar with its properties, to know how to get the best result!  This drying effect is going to depend of course on the dosage in the product.  Generally, a lotion contains more of it than a cream, but this doesn’t count on the fact that in a cream its drying effect is weaker and neutralized by the presence of other hydrating and nourishing actives.  The secret to such cosmetic formulas makes it also almost impossible to give you a simple guide for reading about it.

We can however strongly advise you to opt for the brands that claim a “clean” approach and a transparency on the compositions.  For our part, we opt for transparency.  In our skincare products, alcohol is only present in our Crème Sensationnelle and Sève Divine de Dattes mask, with up to 0.001%, so only in very trace amounts!  It’s an alcohol that comes from the fermentation of cane sugar that is present for preserving one of our natural ingredients, essentially allowing the protection of the freshness and quality of our actives.

If you have other questions about alcohol or about a label’s information or the INCI list, it would be a pleasure for us to answer you.