The Truth About Alcohol In Your Beauty Products

I was in the beauty supply store shopping for some new hair products when another woman complimented me on my hair, “It just looks so thick and healthy …” and then asked if I could help her pick out some products for her hair. I told her I wasn’t an expert on natural hair care, or hair care period, and I really only knew what works for my tresses and even that little bit of knowledge is strictly due to trial and error. But the lady was so sweet I thought, what the hell..I ain’t got nowhere to be.

Had I known this extremely picky and slightly uninformed woman was going to have me in the store dissecting every product’s ingredient list, I would have kept it moving after saying “Thank you for the compliment”. 

Anyway, I stayed. I helped. I continued to pick out products that I knew worked for me and products that I have heard great things about. Every single bottle or jar that I picked up, the first thing she would do was read the list of ingredients and as soon as she saw the word “alcohol” she would shun the product away and put it back on the shelve. 

She just kept saying she doesn’t use any products with alcohol in it. I tried to explain to her that all alcohol isn’t necessarily bad alcohol and showed her what alcohol ingredients were okay and which ones to stay away from. 


So, here’s what I told her and here’s what I’m telling you. The truth about alcohol in your beauty products.

The truth is – All alcohol isn’t bad alcohol. I’ll admit alcohol is a scary word and gets a bad rap when you think about it. Most people associate alcohol with rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl) or the alcohol used in liquor (Ethyl). If by chance you happen to see these listed in your beauty products, put that shit back! You also want to avoid Methyl Alcohol, which is used as an industrial solvent for like paint remover. Again, put that shit back!

But wait, there are a few alcohol ingredients that actually do more good than harm and can be beneficial for hair and skin. These alcohols are considered “fatty alcohols” and are used bond the ingredients together and/or preserve the product. These specific alcohols do not cause any irritation or drying.

In most hair and skin products you may see Cetearyl, Stearyl or Behenyl Alcohol listed close to the top of the ingredient list. These alcohols are used as thickeners, texture enhancers, and foam stabilizers in products. Basically, they are what gives your face cream it’s creamy texture or your face mask or scrub it’s thickness. And it’s what gives your favorite hair cream that “slip” we all love so much.

Another alcohol you may see in your beauty products is Benzyl Alcohol. Benzyl is used as a preservative to keep your products smelling good. You’ll usually see this in soaps and skin care products. They help keep your favorite body wash smelling amazing.

Next time you’re shopping for beauty products and see one of the above good alcohols in the ingredients don’t fret. They’re there to ensure your products are creamy and smelling good.

Have more questions? Or want to look up some other ingredients your confused about? Visit the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. You can look up any product ingredient you want and become more informed with what you’re putting on your hair, skin or nails.

Thanks for reading!