Why is There Alcohol in Face Creams?

We are always told to stay away from alcohol, because it dries out the skin - whether we drink it or put it right on our faces, it most definitely dries out the skin. So why does it seem impossible to get a moisturizer without it?

Doctor Answers 1

Not Ethanol

I think you may be confusing the common simple alcohol, ethanol with the general term alcohol as defined in your high school chemistry class. An alcohol is a chemical in which a hydroxyl ( OH) bond is attached to the carbon atom. While ethanol, ethyl alcohol, is a simple alcohol, there are many secondary and tertiary alchols which are not drying and are found with great frequency in creams and lotions.

In many topicals various alcohols can perform a number of functions. For instance, cetyl alcohol and Biphenyl alcohol are both excellent skin conditioners. In fact, Cetophil, loved by pediatric dermatologists everywhere, is far from being drying and acts as a very soothing moisturizer. Also, the stearyl alcohol in many creams accounts for their exceptional smoothness. I could go on with other alcohol examples, but suffice to say many alcohols are not drying.

Thank you for the excellent question!

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