Alcohol in skincare, explained

Alcohol in skincare is more complex than you may have first thought. Much like Jekyll & Hyde, it has both a good and bad side.

There are actually two different types of alcohol. Alcohol denat (short for denatured) is often seen as the villain of the skincare world – drying, irritating and at high percentages is bad for the skin. On the other hand, fatty alcohols such as cetyl, stearyl and cetearyl alcohol are the goodies – non-irritating and nourishing for the skin.

Alcohol denat is used in formulations to leave its texture almost weightless. It can also be used to help other ingredients absorb into the skin by breaking down the skin’s protective barrier. But formulations with high amounts of alcohol denat can damage this barrier, allowing pathogens in and water to escape.

Fatty alcohols are emollients that help to moisturise and nourish the skin, leaving it supple and soft. Non-irritating and ideal for dry skin, fatty alcohols are safe and effective additions to skincare.

The ‘free from’ section of our product pages indicates whether there is alcohol denat in the product. Sometimes the use of small amounts of alcohol denat is unavoidable to dissolve certain active ingredients. For this reason a few of our products contain very small levels of alcohol denat.