Credit: Real World Machine

    Credit: Real World Machine

    Demystifying Alcohols in Haircare & Cosmetics

    by Sal Essa


    There’s been a lot of talk on the importance of using natural ingredients in our hair, skin and body care. The obvious result is that anything with alcohol in its ingredient list is bad, right? Wrong. 

    Alcohols in skincare are one of the most misunderstood terms out there. There is quite a wide range of different alcohols that serve different purposes when it comes to your grooming routine. Today we want to demystify the good alcohols from the bad that are used in your personal care and hair products so next time you’re about to buy a product you know exactly what to look out for!


    The bad alcohols in skincare

    Let’s start with the bad ones. Take a look at the products in your bathroom - you’ll probably find the following ingredients pop up over and over again: SD Alcohol, Denatured Alcohol Methanol, Ethanol, Alcohol Denat, and Isopropyl Alcohol. And that’s not a good sign.

    These alcohol-derived ingredients are used to make creams feel lighter and are a good preservative to ensure the product doesn’t go off. It might be tempting to go for an alcohol-filled skin product, but the long-term consequences aren’t worth it.

    When you drink alcohol, it tends to dehydrate you. And it’s the same when you use it on your skin. Alcohol evaporates really quickly when it touches your skin, leaving it dry, irritated and itchy. The effects are heightened the ingredient is used in very high concentrations – which happens often with store-bought grooming products!

    It can also lead to more breakouts as it harms your skin’s protective barrier, taking the moisture away and over-stimulating oil production. So, if you wanted a product that will take care of your skin, this is a definite no for us.


    Bad alcohols in skincare and haircare

    Credit: CK Group

    Fatty Alcohols: The good alcohols in skincare

    Okay, so now that we know certain alcohols can dry out your skin when used in grooming products, which ones are actually good for you?

    Fatty alcohols are derived from plant-based sources such as coconut and nuts and don’t pose any threat to your skin. The only reason they’re called an ‘alcohol’ in ingredient lists is because of their chemical structure, but they have nothing to do with the alcohol in your G&T.

    They help stabilise and emulsify grooming products, creating a rich creamy texture and avoiding oil separation. As they are fatty alcohols, they will help protect and moisturise your skin - so they have the opposite effect to the bad ones! The most common examples are Cetearyl, Stearyl, Cetyl and Behenyl alcohol.

    There’s also another alcohol that isn’t classified as a fatty one yet is safe to use in your haircare routine. This is Benzyl Alcohol. It’s an organic ingredient naturally extracted from certain fruits and is commonly used as a preservative in your shampoo.


    What to look out for when reading ingredient labels

    We always recommend carefully reading the labels and ingredient lists of the grooming products you use. That’s the best way of ensuring they’re not full of harmful chemicals or synthetic ingredients. Apart from these bad alcohols, other things to look out for are SLS, fragrances or artificial colours.

    At NO GUNK we've your back. We know some of these ingredients can be confusing and we do our best to explain what they’re actually are and what they do in layman’s terms so it’s nice and simple for you. 

    We care about the ingredients we use in our products, and we always go for natural ingredients that don’t have any nasty side-effects. That means we would never use harmful ingredients and instead, we always choose natural ingredients that will only benefit your hair and skin!

    Sal Essa
    Sal Essa


    Sal Essa is the Chief Funky Fella & Founder of No Gunk. Fluent in French & Spanish, during his spare time he enjoys travelling, improving his Mandarin & learning from great entrepreneurs and brands.

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