Alcohol is so drying to the skin so why is it added to beauty products?

This article is from a series I did on many harmful chemicals that disrupt our endocrine system. For a further understanding read What the Hell is an Endocrine Disruptor?

Alcohol is a colorless volatile flammable liquid that is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars and is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits and other drinks and is also used as an industrial solvent and as a fuel. All alcohol act as an endocrine disruptor including the beer, wine and liquors we drink socially.

Alcohol Denat (denatured alcohol)

Denatured alcohol, also known as specially denatured alcohol (SD) created by combining ethanol (ethyl alcohol) with adenaturant (chemical) with the sole purpose of making the alcohol unfit for human consumption, poisonous, or extremely bitter. Making this a poisonous, carcinogenic, toxic drink that may cause birth defects if consumed.

Denatured alcohol is typically used as fuel for alcohol burners, camping stoves, or used as cleaning agents, it is also a common ingredient in cosmetics, used for its astringent and anti-foaming properties. Denatured alcohol is very drying to the skin, it aggravates and weakens epi tissue (skin) Per the EWG’s cosmetic database, denatured alcohol is ranked as a moderate hazard due to some evidence of being harmful and toxic to organ systems and being a possible carcinogenic.

If denatured alcohol is one of the first five ingredients you should make sure you avoid this product especially if you have sensitive skin and never buy a product meant for your face with this ingredient in it.

(solvent, viscosity controlling, masking, astringent)


Alcohol                  Denatured Alcohol              Completely Denatured                      

Benzyl Alcohol

Benzyl Alcohol is often synthetically created; may cause contact allergy; subject to concentration or use limitations

Dioxanepropylene Glycol

An organic alcohol commonly used as a skin conditioning agent; may cause an allergic contact dermatitis and itchiness; irritation may happen at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2%. It is often said to be safe in beauty products and that is is actually a humectant but you cannot overlook the fact that it was named the American Contact Dermatitis Society Allergen of the Year 2018 due to it being known for causing contact dermatitis. Adverse reactions to this ingredient present as redness or itchiness. If you suffer from eczema you could be particularly sensitive to this ingredient, you should consider looking for a less irritating alternative to propylene glycol that’s safer for your skin. 


Ceteareths are made from cetearyl alcohol (not toxic by itself) and ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen) in the form of odorless, white grains/pellets. Typically it dissolves in water and alcohol to form a colloid solution, it can be mixed with vegetable, mineral or synthetic fats and oils. The number indicates the average number of molecules of ethylene oxide that are added to create the specific ceteareth ingredient. In this process, 1,4-dioxane is created, which is another carcinogen and is linked to organ toxicity and birth defects.

(Surfactant, Emulsifying Agent, Cleansing Agent, Surfactant-Solubilizing Agent)

  • Ceteareth-12
    • Certeareth -20 Emulsifier used in oil—in-water emulsions
    • Certeareth -25 Stabalizing oil-in-water emulisifier, has a bit more gel-forming and thickening properties than Certeareth – 20

PEG-20                   Cetostearyl Alcohol                                             PEG20 Cetyl/Stearyl Ether

PEG-12                   Polyethylene Glycol1000 Cetyl/Stearyl Ether

PEG -25                  Polyoxyethylene (20) Cetyl/Stearyl Ether      

PEG 7 glyceryl cocoate

Polyethylene glycols (PEGs)are another known Endocrine Disruptor and are often mixed with cetearyl alcohols.

PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. PEGs are commonly used as cosmetic cream bases. They are also used in pharmaceuticals as laxatives. PEGs are formed using ethylene oxide and water. As we learned with ceteareths, ethylene oxide is aknown carcinogen and ranks a 10 out of 10 on EWG’s hazard scale. Formation of PEGs also create 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogenand chemical linked to organ toxicity and birth defects. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide can also harm the nervous system and the California Environmental Protection Agency has classified it as a developmental toxicant based on evidence that it may interfere with human development.  1,4-dioxane does not easily degrade and can remain in the enviroment polluting our water long after it is rinsed down the shower drain. 

When you start paying attention to your ingredients you are going to be blown away at just how many main stream personal care products contain these. Products that are supposed to moisturize or help with wrinkles or clean your body or hair. Alcohol is known for its drying effects so you must ask yourself how exactly is this product going to help my hair, skin or nails if it drying it out. What it will do is make sure that you must buy more of that product

Sources used to write this article.

Propylene Glycol PMID: 2905909

Disclaimer: The strategies, suggestions and techniques expressed here are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The Author, Kira Miller, is not rendering medical advice nor is she trying to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disease, condition, illness or injury.

If you are under the care of a physician, it is imperative that you consult their advice before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program.

Kira Miller claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss or damage alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the material presented here.

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