What's with Alcohol in My Skincare Products?

Two glasses of alcohol

We all know alcohol is bad for us but what about for our skin? Isn’t it drying?
It all depends upon the alcohol. Alcohol is a molecule that contains carbon atoms and an oxygen and hydrogen atom (a hydroxyl group), and their names end in ‘ol’. The one we know best, ethanol (or ethyl alcohol), is a product of fermentation and is drying. Denatured alcohol (where something is added to ethanol to make it undrinkable) is also drying and is used in window cleaner, camp stove fuel, paint removal, etc. Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol or rubbing alcohol) is created using petroleum-based ingredients or from reducing acetone (TOXNET Toxicology Data Network) and is drying.
Now for the good alcohols. Cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol are fatty alcohols derived from coconut and nuts. These alcohols are emollient, leave your skin soft and smooth and are used as thickeners and co-emulsifiers. 
Witch hazel is often obtained from solvent extraction with alcohol and some of it remains in the witch hazel. Store bought witch hazel can contain 15-30% alcohol. Our Facial Toner & Cleanser contains witch hazel and the alcohol content is about 8%. We have recently found some alcohol-free witch hazel which we’ll be using in the future.
Benzyl alcohol is another ingredient you’ll find on many of our labels. It’s an aromatic alcohol and is an ingredient in the natural preservative we use. It is found naturally in plants and essential oils and is safe.
If you’re concerned about dry skin, check the labels of your toners, hand sanitizers, mouthwashes and oily skin care products.

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