We’re all familiar with the scary ingredients that we should avoid in skincare products: parabens, sulfates, and fragrance. But we should be wary too of another skincare enemy: alcohol. It’s an extremely common ingredient, and you probably have a mini bottle of the disinfectant in your purse. But did you know it can be harmful to your face in more ways than one? Read on to find out how alcohol can damage your skin.
Alcohol damages the skin cells’ ability to retain water and strips away their natural acid mantle, leaving skin dehydrated and prone to wrinkling or sagging. Using skincare products that contain alcohol—like makeup removers, toners, or astringents—can actually dry out your skin.
Your skin has a protective layer called the dermal barrier, which seals in moisture and protects the skin from environmental stressors. Applying skincare products with harmful alcohol takes away this natural layer, leaving the skin vulnerable to irritation, infection, and allergies.
Research has shown that ethanol, which is the alcohol in Alcohol Denatured usually found in the ingredient list and in rubbing alcohol, not only damages healthy cells but also introduces “apoptosis,” a condition where the cell permanently deteriorates and eventually dies. Cell deterioration and dehydration reduces the skin’s ability to protect against inflammation and free radicals, resulting in worn, wrinkly skin.
Alcohol was initially introduced into skincare products for its ability to clear and cut through oil on the skin. But stripping down all the sebum also means leaving your skin dry, exposed, and vulnerable. Once the skin starts to dry up, it automatically produces more oil as a defense mechanism, forcing an overproduction in sebum that can lead to breakouts. If you're feeling oily and dirty, you might feel like cleansing your face more than you should, but using cleansers with alcohol will only aggravate your acne.
Fatty alcohols, like cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol, act as emollients that help skin retain moisture. Sounds great, right? The bad news is that fatty alcohols can clog your pores, leading to breakouts.
Despite all these, many skincare products are still formulated with alcohol because it’s an antiseptic and an astringent—which may do your skin some good at an acceptable percentage. If you’re looking for a cleanser that keeps your skin hydrated, check out NIVEA’s MicellAIR Cleanser 0% Alcohol, an effective and gentle cleanser with zero alcohol content and Advanced Micellar Technology. Apart from cleansing skin of even the most stubborn makeup, dirt, and other impurities, NIVEA MicellAIR Cleanser 0% Alcohol’s lightweight, breathable formula leaves skin feeling baby soft, smooth, and moisturised.
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