When it comes to healthy skincare routines, there are often many vital ingredients designed to work for a radiant complexion–like a vitamin C serum and sunscreen. With that said, there are also skincare ingredients that are actually doing more harm than good for your skin. Experts say skincare products with alcohols and sulfates are super-dehydrating and bad for your skin, especially in the winter when the cold air already dries out the skin (check out these winter skincare mistakes you should avoid!).
To learn more, we spoke with Dr. Hashal Ranglani, a certified dermatologist from INVITY, and Ksenia Sobchak, a skincare expert from Loxa Beauty. They said products with alcohols and sulfates if used regularly, disrupt the skin barrier and dry out the skin.
If alcohol is one of the top ingredients, it's likely to be drying out your skin and, with chronic use, this could disrupt your skin's barrier. A disrupted barrier allows moisture to escape the skin and gives potential irritants entry, leading to redness and inflammation. Some common irritants include strong soaps, cleaners, and more.
Alcohol is one of the most drying ingredients in common skincare products and there are many types. Look out for the commonly used alcohol types: ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and benzyl alcohol. Alcohols are a generally inexpensive ingredient and it's used as a delivery method for actives or possible stabilizers. An "active" is an ingredient that addresses whatever skin concern it's meant to target and "stabilizers" comprise a variety of compounds that are able to maintain the function and activity of other ingredients such as, for example, active ingredients, fragrances, and essential oils.
Ranglani does not recommend skincare products with alcohol. She says that "when shopping for skincare items, those with [aging skin] should avoid using products that contain simple alcohols." Mature or aging skin, she says, is often characterized as dry and fragile. Alcohols can make this skin type so much worse. Instead of skin care products with alcohols, try these cheap, derm-recommended products for women over 40!
"When applied topically, simple alcohols draw out moisture from the skin while stripping it of its protective barrier," Ranglani adds. "When left with no moisture or protection, skin aging is accelerated, and the skin is more vulnerable to environmental damage." Yikes!
While alcohols in general are dehydrating, experts say to specifically be wary of denatured alcohol–no matter what the product's benefits may be. Denatured alcohol is ethanol that has additives to make it bad-tasting, foul-smelling, or nauseating to discourage its recreational consumption. The alcohol content, even in small amounts, could cause possible severe skin dryness. Another drawback is its potential to cause skin inflammation from damage to the skin barrier over prolonged use.
Sobchak agrees, adding that “denatured and isopropyl alcohols” cause “extreme dryness and irritation” to aging skin. “That’s not all,” Sobchak concludes, saying that they can also “worsen skin conditions including rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema,” which is important to look out for.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a chemical product commonly found in soaps and other cleaning products that are designed to wash away dirt and grease. Sobchak warns that this ingredient can take away your skin's natural protective barrier and greatly irritate aging or already sensitive skin.
"Most cleansers come with sulfates to help eliminate dirt and oil on your skin accordingly," she notes. "Although they can work for other skin types, people with aging skin should avoid them at all costs." Sulfates, she says, can cause irritation, dryness, and worsen your overall skin health. While sulfates are highly effective at removing oils and dirt from the skin, they are often too harsh on sensitive skin. And, sulfates are particularly damaging to hair when in shampoo and can even lead to hair loss.
There you have it: Two super-dehydrating skincare ingredients you need to stop putting on your face in 2023. Check out the products from your skincare routine and see if they have any of these ingredients!