Alcohol in skincare – the good, the bad and the waxy

This Blog is dedicated to Sophia Nash, a  savvy 17 year old who’s said “but it has alcohol in it!!!!” Let me  explain the good from the bad…


Who, with even a passing interest in skincare, hasn’t read the ingredients list of a product, noticed there’s alcohol included and got the shakes?


We’ve been lectured about the drying and irritating properties of alcohol for a while now, so avoiding anything with alcohol and opting for products that claim to be alcohol-free can only be good right? Yes. And not necessarily.


If you remember back to your days in the chemistry lab at school, alcohol is essentially a compound containing an oxygen and hydrogen pairing at one end of its molecule. That bottle of gin on your liquor cabinet ­– the result of fermentation of sugar and yeast – has that O-H combination. But so too does coconut oil.

In skincare terms, there are two basic types of alcohol


– the drying, astringent, germ-killing group of which ethyl alcohol belongs, and the benevolent waxy or fatty alcohols.


The fatty alcohols typically come from natural fats and oils, although they can also be made in a laboratory. Unlike ethyl alcohol, which can disturb and dry the skin’s natural barrier  leaving it susceptible to bacteria, the fatty types are included in skincare because they are naturally moisturising and emollient on the skin – the opposite of what ethyl alcohols do. To confirm Fatty alcohols are non-irritating and can be incredibly beneficial to the skin. They may all be technically classified as alcohol, but that’s where their O-H similarities end.

In our Corbin Rd Restorative Cleansing Balm, we’ve included the natural cetyl alcohol coconut oil.

Coconut oil is a natural antibacterial, antifungal oil, which cleanses and hydrates the skin as it protects it from environmental nasties, which is precisely why we’ve used it. It also helps reduce and ward off free radical damage, as well as soothing skin after any irritation or sun exposure.So, next time you look on the ingredients list, while we understand your aversion to ethyl alcohols, don’t dismiss cetyl alcohol and its relations, or you could be missing out on a wonderfully emollient experience.

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