Nowadays, many brands like to present alcohol-free as one of their main selling points. As we see this term everywhere, we can not help but wonder if the ingredient is harmful to our skin. To find out if alcohol is worth avoiding across the board, we asked Jeannette Graf, MD, registered dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and registered dermatologist at MDCS dermatology. , Marisa Garshick, MD, Everything We Need To Know About This Controversial Additive.
Why is alcohol included in skin care products?
When formulated in skin care products, alcohol works in multiple ways. Its main goal, says Dr. Graf, is to improve the penetration of other ingredients. For example, alcohol helps antioxidants like vitamin C and retinol penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, making them more effective; it can also dissolve stubborn ingredients that won’t wash off with water. Dr Garshick agrees, noting that this is why alcohol is used before a chemical peel, to ensure maximum absorption and effectiveness. Another app for alcohol? Oil control. Gel-based toners and moisturizers often use it to balance the skin and reduce excess sebum production, says Dr. Garshick.
How can alcohol damage the skin?
According to Dr. Graf, alcohol can break down the skin barrier, speed up the aging process, and interfere with repair pathways along the way. At a lower level, it can dry out and strip the skin of its natural moisture, adds Dr. Garshick, and it can increase sensitivity as well. This applies even if you are oily: while alcohol can help regulate sebum, overdoing it can cause dehydration, resulting in increases oil production to compensate. Ultimately, it’s easy to tell if your skin has been affected by alcohol. Dr Garshick cites redness, scaling, dryness, tenderness, tightness or a burning sensation among the most common warning signs.
Should you avoid skin care products that contain alcohol?
It depends, because not all alcohols are created the same. Dr Graf explains that some products containing this ingredient can do a lot of good for the skin. “It may be beneficial when used in spot treatments when a blemish needs to be dried,” she says. “There are also ‘good’ alcohols, like fatty alcohols, which can actually treat dry skin and eczema by adding an extra layer of hydration.” What is important is to be able to distinguish between these “good” and “bad” varieties. Dr Garshick notes that fatty alcohol, which can be derived from palm or coconut oil, is often added to thicken products and won’t be harsh on the skin. Other alcohols considered to be mild include cetyl, cetearyl, and stearyl alcohol; these can have emulsifying or emollient properties. Drying iterations to avoid, she says, are ethanol, denatured alcohol, methanol, or isopropyl alcohol. People with extremely dry and sensitive complexions or with inflammatory skin conditions (like rosacea) should especially avoid them, she adds, noting that they can cause irritation.
What if alcohol irritates your skin?
If you To do end up with dermatitis or pain after using products containing alcohol, Dr. Graf advises stopping their use. Then use a reliable moisturizer or petroleum jelly to restore moisture. Dr Garshick advises aiming for increased hydration at the start of your routine – a mild hydrating cleanser certainly won’t hurt and can help repair the skin barrier. During your recovery period, avoid active ingredients such as retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and chemical scrubs, as they can make irritation and dryness worse.
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