Are you an ingredient nerd like me?
When you scan the ingredient list of your conditioner in the shower, you may notice it contains alcohol. And when you start reading more of these (really boring) lists, you notice things like body lotion have alcohol in them, too.
Because those things just don’t seem to go together: Why does a moisturizer contain something that dries out your skin?
Why is there any kind of alcohol in cosmetics?
Why is there the same ingredients in beer, grain alcohol, and vodka as hand cream?
Chemistry tells us that not all alcohols are the same.
In fact, it’s best to think of alcohol as a family of compounds, not just one type of drinkable beverage.
So, let’s look at the alcohol family, shall we?
There’s the drinkable kind: ethanol, or ethyl alcohol. It’s the one kind that’s found in every adult beverage you enjoy, whether that’s wine, beer, or cocktail. You don’t want this type of alcohol on your skin because it’s very drying. So if you see it in one of your ingredients lists, just make sure it’s not a main ingredient.
There’s the isopropyl kind of alcohol. Also known as rubbing alcohol, it’s the cheap, horrible smelling stuff that the nurse rubs on the shot site just before she jabs the needle in. You don’t want to drink it, and it’s best to leave this type to topical use. It’s also very drying, so make sure it’s used in small amounts, if at all, in your cosmetics.
And then there are the alcohols that are less familiar. With names like cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl. WTF even are they?
Turns out, these are the higher density, fatty alcohols. They’re also solids. They lend a creamy texture to things like lotions and conditioners and provide excellent moisturizing properties to the skin. They’re pretty indispensable in the cosmetics world. And most of the time, they come from coconuts.
So there IS alcohol in coconuts, just not the type of alcohol you probably thought of at first.
Now you know your alcohols!
How does thinking about alcohol differently make you feel?
Now you can make better decisions with your new knowledge.