Good vs. Bad Alcohols for Skin?

by Yery Choi

Alcohol in skincare is a bit different to the ones you may be more familiar with.. We all know alcohol is bad for our body but not all of us know that good alcohol exists too. Although only in skincare….😢🍻

Bad alcohol in skincare makes the product feel lighter and helps preserve the product for longer, however the downside is that it may cause dryness, irritation and/or breakouts. Many people with oily skin types have the idea that products which contain (bad) alcohol will help control their oil, however this devil does the exact opposite. Although it shows an immediate mattifying effect, your skin will counteract creating more oil to “moisturise” your matte skin. Alcohol may also help other ingredients such as Vitamin C to be easily absorbed into the skin, however long term effects include damage to the skin barrier.

Good alcohols do the exact opposite. They aren’t drying or irritating at all and in fact helps protect and lock in the moisture for your skin. These bad boys (or should I say, good boys HAHAH) are usually fatty alcohols derived from vegetables. These alcohols are usually solid and help prevent the oil and water in your skincare from separating.

Good Alcohols
Bad Alcohols
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • C12-16
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Lauryl alcohol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Glyceryl stearate
  • Glycol
  • Myristyl Alcohol
  • Alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Propanol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Alcohol Denat.
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Methanol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • SD alcohol
  • Benzyl alcohol 


Sometimes bad alcohol isn't always bad. In fact, bad alcohols are useful for spot treatments where the goal is to dry up a certain area/ infection. Though if you’re not looking for a spot treatment, try to avoid anything containing bad alcohol, ESPECIALLY if its one of the first six ingredients in a product. On the other hand, good alcohols are totally safe to use as well as beneficial so don’t neglect them!

Throw away that nasty preconception of alcohol being harmful for your skin. Good stuff exists so we ought to use ‘em! 👍🏻

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