Should You Really Avoid Alcohol in Skincare? Derms Weigh In.

Should you really avoid alcohol in skincare? Well, maybe.

Skincare arguments will rage on till the end of time. Should you or shouldn’t you use foam cleansers? What about oils? One we can finally put to bed is whether or not you should avoid alcohol in skincare. The answer is a simple yes and no.

Avoid alcohol in skincare

Simple Alcohols

Not all alcohols are created equal, pointed out Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a board-certified New York-based dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai. “Alcohols that are derived from ethyl alcohol are called ‘simple’ alcohols. Simple alcohols can dry out the skin by dissolving the skin’s natural oils and therefore, can destroy the skin’s barrier.”

This is the number one main reason why people recommend avoiding alcohol in skincare. No one wants to dry out the skin or destroy the skin barrier. Not a great idea, and probably just as bad as trying skin grits, or wasting cash on those insane golden facial kits.

The one big simple alcohol you may recognize are isopropyl alcohol or ethanol which are used to create a fast drying product. You should also look out for denatured alcohol.

“The bad types like denatured alcohol can irritate the skin. These are usually labeled as SD alcohol followed by a number,” explains Dr. Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at NYU.

Your skin on simple alcohols.

Complex Alcohols

But, Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin says there are other alcohols to consider. “On the other hand, ‘fatty’ alcohols have a much longer chain compared to ethanol and are actually used in skincare products to provide a moisturizing effect. Fatty alcohols are derived from fats and oils. Look for cetyl, cetearyl, stearyl, behenyl, and myristyl alcohol.”

See there are good examples of alcohol in skincare!

“The good types work as an emulsifier, like behenyl alcohol, and/or as an emollient, like ex: cetyl alcohol, to stabilize products and have beneficial effects,” shares Dr. Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae.

Avoid alcohol in skincare

Emulsions make for great skin.

There is no reason to avoid alcohol in skincare both doctors said. Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin advises, “If you have dry or sensitive skin, try to avoid simple alcohol products but if you see the fatty alcohols, keep on using the product if you like it!”

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Bio: She's a New Orleans based beauty writer, nail polish hoarder, and doughnut enthusiast. When she isn't camping out in her local coffee shop for hours on end, you'll probably find her taking selfies in front of every colorful wall she's ever seen. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram @themercuteify.