Cosmetic Alcohol Masterpost: a list of "good" and "bad" alcohols to watch out for in your skincare products
These are the alcohols cosmetics companies use as cheap filler, which can cause free radical damage, irritation, and inflammation of sebum glands (simultaneously dehydrating the skin and prompting sebum glands to overproduce oil):
-sodium lauryl sulphate
These fatty alcohols and alcohol derivatives are no-brainer emollients that help hydrate skin by acting as humectants - ingredients that attract and hold moisture. They are usually found as skin-identical ingredients safe even for oily skin:
-cetearyl alcohol/cetearyl glucoside
-ethyl hexyl palmitate
Though safe in smaller volumes, volatile oils can cause irritation and free radical damage even in non-sensitive skin. Used in tiny quantities in waterproof makeups (such as Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes Waterproof Pencil) and foundation pigments (like Cover FX Custom Cover Drops), volatile oils rapidly evaporate leaving only pigment on the skin.
However, in larger volumes, volatile oils are often found in moisturizers, serums and foundations, evaporating quickly and leaving skin with the temporary sensation of softness (often we think a product has been “absorbed” into skin when in fact it has merely evaporated, leaving behind synthetic slip agents like dimethicone to make skin appear moisturized). According to Paula Begoun, volatile oils “most often include a mix of alcohols, ketones, phenols, linalool, borneol, terpenes, camphor, pinene, acids, ethers, aldehydes, and sulfur, all of which have extremely irritating and sensitizing effects on skin.”