Can applying alcohol ever be good for the skin? With so many skin-care products including alcohol in their base, one might think the answer is “yes.” And since alcohol helps ingredients like retinol and vitamin C penetrate into the skin more effectively, it seems to validate that answer.
However, alcohol helps beauty aids penetrate the skin by breaking down the skin’s barrier—destroying the very substances that keep your skin healthy over time. Yet, if alcohol evaporates, how damaging can it be to the skin?
Because alcohol immediately harms the skin and starts a chain reaction of damage that continues long after it has evaporated.
One result is that after applying alcohol, the skin is never quite able to protect itself from further damage, unable to keep water and cleansing agents from penetrating into it. This erodes the skin’s barrier, which is normally good at keeping beneficial ingredients in, and other treatments out.
Another seemingly inconsistency is our belief that alcohol is used to clean wounds. While that was true in the past, today most medical professionals do not use alcohol to clean wounds at all. This is because alcohol is both destructive, and ineffective at sterilizing wounded, open skin, since organic matter such as clotted blood, serum, pus, and foreign bodies inactivate antiseptics.
This might seem confusing, because alcohol does disinfect skin, which is why the doctor or nurse often swabs your skin before giving you a shot, but applying alcohol to an open wound is extremely harmful—physicians clean wounds with either sterile water, saline solution, or iodine. In addition, while alcohol quickly de-greases skin, providing an instant gratification for people with oily skin and super-oily complexions, the result is that alcohol stimulates more oil production, making oily skin even more oily.
The problem is that alcohol-based products are very popular, yet they are dangerous. So much so, that lab tests using only 3% alcohol instead of the 5% to 60% found in beauty products, in a two-day test increased cell death by 26%. In addition, the cells that defend against free radicals and reduce inflammation were also destroyed.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. Exposure to alcohol causes skin cells to literally self-destruct—they just give up and commit suicide. And the longer the skin cells are exposed to alcohol, the faster the skin deteriorates. Obviously, alcohol-based skin care products are antiquated and a poor way to formulate cosmetics. Yet companies continue to utilize alcohol in their products.
Luckily there are such large selections of non-alcohol based skin care products, that there should never be a need for someone to use a product with alcohol in it.
So either look for and purchase skin-care products that are alcohol free, or consider using one of the new, simple to use, at home beauty aid tools, like Riiviva’s new Microderm diamond-tipped wand or PMD’s Personal Microderm kit. Both are beauty tools that achieve marvelous results in the privacy of your own home by easily removing the dead surface skin and bringing up the underneath, newer, youthful, more vibrant skin.
Helen is the beauty and skin expert at Riiviva. She loves writing about beauty and skincare.