Mythbusters: let’s talk about alcohol, myths, and outright lies


There is so much confusion about skincare and haircare. I know because I have lived through almost all of it and have reaped the repercussions of expensive overrated ineffective products in both departments. I’m here to set the record straight.

First let’s set the record straight about alcohols. The way people throw this word around you would expect to find only one ingredient, one called alcohol, that may or may not be in a product that would indicate whether or not you should avoid that product. The first time I encountered this example of ignorance and confusion was when a stylist told me to stop using my leave in mask (Nioxin) because it contained alcohol and to buy her product instead. So I bought her particular mask product instead (Aveda) and was flabbergasted that it also contained the offending ingredient – namely Cetyl Alcohol and another alcohol called Cetearyl Alchohol. Thus began my irritation at stylists and cosmetic shop girls. First of all, they both contained Cetyl Alcohol. Second of all, Cetyl Alcohol is not a drying agent – it’s a conditioning agent! But apparently she didn’t know either of those facts, and just wanted to sell me another product. Thank you very much.

The word alcohol is a tricky word – some alcohols are fatty alcohols and are some of the industry’s most conditioning products. They certainly don’t cause dryness, and they are on the lowest scale of toxicity (like other non-toxic ingredients) on the website’s ratings.

[1] Other examples of good fatty alcohols are:

Stearyl Alcohol
Cetyl Alcohol
Cetearyl Alcohol
Lauryl Alcohol
Myristyl Alcohol
Behenyl Alcohol

If you see these in your hair products they are a good nongreasy way to protect and hydrate your hair.

When stylist says, “alcohol will dry your hair out,” she is probably talking about these alcohols:

SD Alcohol
SD Alcohol 40
Alcohol Denat
Propyl Alcohol
Isopropyl Alcohol

I’m going to admit I don’t completely avoid this list of alcohols. For me it’s all about balance. Sometimes a spritz or a spray can contain alcohol Denat as one of the first ingredients to help expel the product. I go by effect; does the product make my hair feel dry? After all, it’s not a harmful or toxic ingredient, just one that can cause dryness. If the oils and conditioners in the product mean the product hydrates you more than it dries you out, then you can keep using your favorite product. But if you find a different product that does not use one of the above products from the not so good list, then you might have found a better product. Also if your product dries your hair out, then you should think about switching to one with none of the drying alcohols.

Keep reading for more Mythbusters: Myths, Ignorance and Outright Lies

1. Thanks to Rasheda of “Rapunzel” for saving me some work here.

8 thoughts on “Mythbusters: let’s talk about alcohol, myths, and outright lies

  1. I had no idea the difference in alcohols and how many there are. This should help show the difference for your readers, nice! Cool photo of you too. πŸ˜‰


    1. Thanks!! There is much to learn in the cosmetics industry, and unfortunately many times those who should be experts are like the blind leading the blind. I’ve had to learn everything the hard way. I do hope this helps someone!


      1. At 52, I can safely say that hands-on experience will forever be the best way to learn things. Sometimes this is good, in some cases no.


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