Alcohol in skin care products

What is with all of the alcohol in skin care products?

Alcohol in our lotions?We found ourselves asking this question quite often when we began our journey into creating natural personal care products.  After pouring over a lot of technical information on what alcohols are and their differences we were surprised to find out that not all alcohols are equal.
Just because it has the word alcohol in it doesn’t mean it is bad for you, and the right alcohols, known as fatty alcohols 1, are very good for you and are essential for making that smooth lotion we all love so much.

The Good Alcohols

Though not a complete list you will usually see Stearyl, Cetyl and Cetearyl Alcohol2 in your products.
These alcohols are typically derived from plant matter such as coconut oil and are what allow the oils and waters to emulsify into a smooth lotion.  The right fatty alcohols will also add to the benefits of the lotion by adding penetration so the other nutrients can get below the skin where they are most beneficial.
If you dig deeper you will also find that Cetearyl alcohol is a mixture of Stearyl and Cetyl alcohols and you will probably ask why are both needed?  This is where a lot of the chemistry of a lotion is done and just Cetearyl alcohol is not always enough to join the oil and water together.  Adding the individual Stearyl and Cetyl alcohols allows the lotion maker to fine tune the lotion to get the desired smoothness and complete emulsification.

Alcohols to avoid

Now that we know what is good for us, let’s talk about some of the alcohols that you want to avoid.  Alcohol, ethanol, ethyl alcohol, Isopropanol, isopropyl alcohol, IPA are just a few that we have found, there are many others and we encourage you to google ingredients before buying a product.
The most common one you will find is Isopropyl alcohol also known as rubbing alcohol 3.  This alcohol should not be used for anything other than thinning shellac but it is commonly used to thin out a lotion and provide a drying effect when using oils that don’t readily absorb into the skin.