What are the Controversies surrounding the Use of Alcohol in Cosmetic Products?


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Alcohol, namely ethanol, is one of the most common types used in cosmetic products - with over 80% of the world’s manufacturing relying on the addition of this chemical to act as a filler within cosmetics. Not only can the chemical itself be harmful to skin, but it can also cause reactions, not to mention an assortment of other concerns that can arise from time to time. In the post below, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the controversies surrounding the use of alcohol within cosmetic products and why so many leading skincare experts recommend avoiding it.

What is Ethanol?

Ethanol is a purified form of alcohol, whereby the active ingredient remains present making it the ideal solvent, with its primary use being to de-grease inorganic products, as well as to clean surfaces. On its own, it’s actually a vital component used within the manufacturing industry, able to sterilise a wide variety of materials. When combined with other chemicals, however, the reaction can sometimes cause irritation to hair, skin and nails. Ethanol is also highly flammable, posing another degree of risk.

Why is it Used in Cosmetics?

The most common reason why cosmetic grade alcohol is used in beauty products is because alcohol itself is a potent anti-bacterial, anti-functional and anti-inflammatory agent. As a result, many cosmetic manufacturers include this chemical within their products. As ethanol is a very pure form of alcohol, it is capable of cleaning deep into a person’s pores and providing a smooth, germ-free surface, which many people aspire to achieve.

Why Do Experts Say That This is a Bad Thing?

Although the ability to completely cleanse skin of bacteria may sound appealing, the truth is that alcohol is actually a potent drying agent. What this means is that if it comes into contact with a source of hydration, it will actively cause it to evaporate. When used just once or twice on the skin, the consequences are fairly minimal, but when used daily, as is often the case with moisturisers, the results can be dry, flaky and sometimes even itchy skin.

How Bad Can These Reactions Get?

In the most extreme cases, people have found their skin starting to crack and peel as a result of using a product that relies on alcohol as a cleaning agent. Although this is rare, the reality is that due to the drying properties of ethanol, it can occur more often than people think. That may start as dehydration of the skin and can soon go on to become far more severe, and the longer that this goes on for, the worse the condition can be.

When using any type of alcohol within a cosmetic product, it’s always a good idea to opt for one that benefits the person’s skin specifically. Many individuals have different skin types, but in the vast majority of cases, most will suffer when exposed to alcohol, and so choosing a product that doesn’t use ethanol to remove dirt and germs can be beneficial in the long term.

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