The simple answer is: it depends. There are “good” or better alcohols and “bad” or worse alcohols. And there are even ingredients that are called alcohols that are actually fragrances or preservatives and allergens.
“Good” alcohols are normally not irritating in skin care, particularly when used in low concentrations.
“Bad” alcohols do cause irritations and appear in the VH -76 allergen list. These include benzyl alcohol, lanolin alcohol and cinnamic alcohol (which is actually a fragrance and is often ranked as high as #3 on the allergen list).
Alcohol can even be beneficial by helping to spread the risk of infection. But the types of alcohol and the concentrations required for anti-microbial needs can be drying. If you need to disinfect your hands frequently (you work or live with the immuno-compromised, the elderly or the very young or pregnant), or if you'd like your children to use a gentler hand sanitizer, we recommend Grandma Minnie's Kid Gloves Monolaurin Hand Sanitizer. Monolaurin, is a coconut-derived gentle-yet-powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal that is moisturizing instead of drying.
If you have specific conditions like rosacea or eczema, you might want to skip toners and other products with alcohol.
Can someone with sensitive skin use a product with alcohol?
Normally, yes, if the formulation uses “good” alcohol and the alcohol is present in concentrations that are low enough so as to be well tolerated by sensitive skin.
Does good alcohol mean plant-derived?
Not necessarily. Almost all alcohols are derived from plants, even the “bad” ones. Sugarcane, rye and wheat all yield alcohol. Alcohol safety has little do to with from where the alcohol is derived and has more to do with its chemical composition and its concentration.
At VMV HYPOALLERGENICS®, we use only alcohols that are not in the VH-76 allergen list; we use them in very low concentrations; and we dilute them further in a hydro-alcoholic base.
For more on what hypoallergenic means, click here.
For more on the differences between natural and hypoallergenic, click here.
For more on allergens, click here.
Click here to learn more about the VH-Rating System.