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How bad alcohol is for the skin? Or is it not?

The inspiration came after reading some popular website portraying a very simple black and white picture, right and wrong about alcohol. I thought, actually there are colours and shades in the picture. So I decided to give you a snapshot in full colour on alcohol (or ethanol for the scientific prone audience). In fact ethanol has incredible benefits when used in the right beauty products at the right amount and in some applications there is no better alternative to it!

What is alcohol

Alcohol (ethanol) comes originally from nature, when enzymes break down sugars to CO2 and ethanol, a small molecule (CH3CH2OH) with very unique characteristics. A classic example is grapes fermentation, which produce wine.  In pure form alcohol is a colourless very mobile liquid with a pungent smell being highly volatile. It is available on the market form natural sources as well as petrochemical sources.

How it is used in cosmetics

The there are 3 main traditional uses of ethanol in cosmetic products:



-medium to make herbal tinctures

Can you imagine a perfume without alcohol? Its volatility is essential for the fragrance to lift up and reach your senses. There is nothing like it.

Another use of alcohol in cosmetics is as a preservative thanks to its very quick and broad killing action. There are a few old fashion herbal skin toners and creams with a high alcohol content on the market. Do these products dry the skin? well it is very difficult to generalise because it depends on the product formulation and the skin it is applied on. For example acne prone skin benefits greatly from alcohol because of its antibacterial properties helping to keep acne bacteria at bay. Providing the product contains a good emollient or moisturiser  alcohol can give great benefit without high costs such as drying the skin.

The other use in cosmetics and also in phyto therapy is as an extraction medium for plants and botanics. Alcohol has been used for centuries to make herbal remedies to treat all sorts of conditions thanks to its ability to take out water soluble as well as oil soluble active molecules.

Alcohol: black or white?

The answer lies in knowing your skin and finding out what alcohol content is beneficial for you. Please do not let scary pseudo scientific blog posts put you off this incredible ingredient!

Please feel free to share your experience with alcohol in skin products.