Alcohols have gotten a bad rap in cosmetics, there’s merit to that. Those so called ‘bad’ alcohols are known as volatile alcohols, the quick drying, astringent type that evaporates when exposed to oxygen, such as Denatured Alcohol and Isopropyl Alcohol.
Although this blog is not about volatile alcohols, let’s be clear that these chemicals also have their merits. These include good astringent properties, good preservative action and gives some formulas a light, weightless feel. Volatile alcohols can however damage the skin’s protective layer causing the skin to go into overdrive, overproducing oils in some areas whilst underproducing in others as it races to fix the damage. Run from products that have this type of alcohol as one of the first 5 ingredients, unless that’s what you’re looking for. Being in the top 5 ingredients means the alcohol is in the product at a high percentage.
Note that these types of volatile alcohols are sometimes part of an ingredient blend at very small percentages, however it still has to be listed on the product’s ingredients list to comply with regulations. You will know it’s incidental if it’s toward the end of the product’s ingredient list.
Ok, let’s move on to our proposed topic.
Pick up any cream, lotion or conditioner right now, peruse the ingredients list and you’ll see some form of ‘alcohol’ on the label. I know it seems misleading, but chemistry is strange (chemists please don’t come after me)! As you will learn in this blog, not all alcohols are bad for your skin. Some are actually pretty amazing. These alcohols help to impart a lovely feel to your lotion, help improve the emollience of your conditioner and help hold your luscious cream together so it doesn’t look like baby food when you take it home.
The alcohols I’m referring to are called fatty alcohols.
What Are Fatty Alcohols And Why Do We Use Them In Cosmetics?
Fatty alcohols are usually straight chained, high molecular weight primary alcohols, mostly derived from natural fats and oils but can also be derived from petrochemicals. They are in a similar chemical group as volatile alcohols, I won’t get too technical, but they vary from liquid to waxy textures and are used in a plethora of cosmetics for thickening, stabilising, as well as the starting material for some natural surfactants used in shampoos and conditioners.
Some of the most common fatty alcohols you’ll find in your cosmetics are:
· Cetyl Alcohol
· Oleyl Alcohol
· Cetearyl Alcohol
· Stearyl Alcohol
· Behenyl Alcohol
· Brassica Alcohol
· Arachidyl Alcohol
They all do pretty much the same thing, however some shine brighter in an area where another may fall a little short. One may outperform the others with its rich luxurious skin feel properties, whilst another may offer superior product stability. You will sometimes notice multiple fatty alcohols in one ingredient list as some work very well together to create a truly exceptional product.
As a plant-based company, we use the plant derived version of these ingredients and rely heavily on their multifunctionality to bring you products you will love.
Let us know your thoughts on alcohols, both volatile and fatty alcohols. What has your experience been like with them? Connect with us on our Facebook page or drop us an email via the contact page.
Until the next post.
Be Great x