There are two types of alcohol used in skin care: volatile alcohols and fatty alcohols. Volatile alcohols include ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and denatured alcohol (i.e. Alcohol Denat., SD Alcohol 40, etc.). Since these alcohols are volatile, they give products a quick-drying finish while reducing excess oil and shine. However, volatile alcohols are well known to cause skin dryness, irritation, and even disruption of the skin barrier with continued use. While these alcohols will immediately degrease the skin, they actually dry out the skin so much that the skin will produce more oil over time to compensate for the dryness. Overall, it is recommended to avoid products that contain a high concentration of volatile alcohols.
On the other hand, fatty alcohols in skin care are non-irritating and can actually offer many benefits. Fatty alcohols include ingredients such as cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. They are typically derived from natural ingredients like coconut or vegetable oil. Fatty alcohols have emollient properties, which means they help to lock in moisture and protect your skin from damaging environmental factors