NEWS | APRIL 2019

Alcohol in Cosmetics

An increasing number of consumers are taking a closer look at the INCI lists on the cosmetics they buy. However, these lists are not always easy to decipher, and certain ingredients can be worrying for consumers. This is true of alcohol, which has received bad press... So, should we really ban alcohol from our cosmetics? What is its purpose? Here, Najel will help you get a clearer understanding… 

Different designations

The term "alcohol" can refer to different ingredients. However, they are not necessarily bad. We have selected some of those you might come across in the INCI lists on your organic cosmetics

« Denat Alcohol»

This is a term for denatured alcohol, i.e. alcohol that has been made unfit for consumption. 

« Alcohol »

This term refers to undenatured alcohol or alcohol that has been denatured with essential oils. Alcohol is often used in perfumed formulations but also for its role as a preservative.

« Cetearyl alcohol », « Cetyl alcohol », « Stearyl alcohol », « Lauryl alcohol », « Myristyl alcohol »

These are fatty alcohols which have many cosmetic properties. They are emollients that help soften and moisturize skin. They are also used as emulsifiers to stabilize cosmetic formulations. 

« Benzyl alcohol »

You will often come across this ingredient in your organic cosmetics as it is an allergen occurring naturally in a number of raw materials such as essential oils, plant extracts....
It can also be used synthetically for its role as a preservative, but in limited amounts.


Are they harmful for your health?

Alcohol, benzyl alcohol and fatty alcohols are not harmful for your health. The organic certification of the cosmetics guarantees that these ingredients are of natural origin.

However, alcohol can be irritating and drying for skin that is dehydrated. This is because alcohol removes the skin's hydrolipidic film, a protective barrier against harsh external elements, causing skin to become dry and sensitive. Manufacturers of organic cosmetics add other ingredients to counteract the irritating and drying effects of alcohol.

Benzyl alcohol, on the other hand, can be an allergen for certain individuals suffering from allergies.


In short, no certified organic cosmetics containing alcohol are dangerous. Only people suffering from allergies and very sensitive skin should avoid cosmetics which contain it.


For further information, you can also read Cosmébio’s article