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Alcohol in skincare

11 June 2021 | Blog | 0 comments

There are different types of alcohol used in skincare. There is often confusion about this, as one type of alcohol cannot be compared to another and the statement ‘alcohol is bad for your skin’ is not necessarily true.

alcohol in skincare

The two types of alcohol used in skincare can be easily described as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. And, you guessed it, hard alcohol is not good for your skin and it is best to avoid.


Hard alcohol dissolves your skin’s oily protective layer, causing it to dry out and become sensitive. You can recognise this type of alcohol on the list of ingredients under the following names:
• alcohol denat. (denatured alcohol – very drying)
• ethanol
• methanol
• isopropyl
• ethyl alcohol
• SD alcohol
• benzyl alcohol
Benzyl alcohol needs some nuances. This ingredient is often used as a preservative or solution for plant extracts that are used in natural skincare. These are small amounts that are harmless to that extent and don’t dry out the skin in combination with the other ingredients. If it’s a rinse-off product and the amount is below 0.01%, it doesn’t even have to be mentioned on the packaging. So there are also products where benzyl alcohol is present, but not mentioned on the packaging. Witlof Skincare values transparency and therefore lists all ingredients on the packaging, even when it is not necessary.


Soft, or “fatty” alcohol has a nurturing effect in skincare, as it helps your skin to retain moisture better and plant extracts can be better absorbed by your skin. You can recognise this type of alcohol on the list of ingredients under these names:
• cetearyl alcohol
• cetyl alcohol
• behenyl alcohol
• myristyl alcohol
• stearyl alcohol
The alcohol contained in Witlof products is a combination of mild alcohol and benzyl alcohol and is used to dissolve certain plant extracts. It ensures that the nourishing extracts such as vitamins and anti-oxidants are absorbed deeper into the skin where they can do their good work.


You can also judge whether the (hard) alcohol used is drying by looking at the place on the ingredients list. If it’s at the very bottom, it’s in such small quantities that it has no adverse effects. But, beware, this does not apply to hormone-like substances such as parabens. In small quantities, these can affect your body, which is why this type of check does not apply to every type of ingredient.
Want to know more about ingredients in cosmetics and what their position on the list tells you? Tune in on our Masterclass on ingredients, “Know What You’re Putting On Your Skin” on the first Monday of every month, starting in August.

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