When you see the word ‘alcohol’ on an ingredients list, you might automatically think the worst. Indeed, many of us have come to see alcohols as drying, abrasive and generally ‘bad’ for both our skin and hair…
But in fact, not all alcohols are created equal. For starters, alcohol is not a single chemical (such as ethanol – the kind you drink). The term actually refers to a family of chemicals and not all of them are bad for your scalp and hair. In fact, some of them can be beneficial and even hydrating (yes some alcohols are hydrating – although not the kind you drink sadly!).
Alcohol is used in haircare for a number of different reasons. The two main kinds used in haircare and skincare are short-chain and long-chain alcohols – and it’s important that you know the difference, as they work in very different ways…
Short-chain = ‘Bad’ alcohols
Short-chain alcohols are considered ‘bad’ alcohols, as they are known for their drying properties. They have very few carbon atoms which means they evaporate quickly, and for this reason are commonly used in products which need to have a quick drying effect, such as hairspray and dry shampoo. While they’re good at soaking up excess grease or sweat, the flipside is that they can excessively dry the scalp and hair, leaving the hair cuticle rough and brittle (causing frizz) as well as making the scalp itchy, flaky and prone to irritation. It’s for this reason that MONPURE use no bad alcohols in any of our products.
Common ‘bad alcohols’ to watch out for are: ethanol, propanol, propyl alcohol. isopropyl alcohol and SD alcohols.
Long-chain = ‘Good’ alcohols
These are long-chain alcohols, otherwise known as fatty acid alcohols and while they fall under the ‘alcohol’ umbrella, they work very differently to how you might normally think an alcohol works. Fatty alcohols are highly nourishing and usually derived from plants to add a thickening or emulsifying (mixing oil and water) effect to beauty products. But rather than just act as a ‘filler’ ingredient, they also benefit the skin and hair due to the fact that they’re incredibly hydrating. They also loosen tangles and help keep frizz at bay for a more defined texture (which is why they’re a staple in The Curly Girl Method) and work to keep the hair soft and shiny – as well as the scalp moisturised.
Popular ‘good’ alcohols include: lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol and behenyl alcohol.
You can find cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol in our Strengthening-Essence Conditioner, which – together with vegan silk peptides and Vitamin E – leaves the scalp and hair leaving supremely nourished and hydrated. And thanks to its unique lightweight formula, you can use this conditioner directly on the scalp right down to the ends of your hair – without it leaving your hair flat or greasy. (Not even with fine hair types!)
So remember, don’t judge all alcohols the same – it can sometimes be your friend (for your hair and scalp at least!).
Have a question about our products or ingredients or just a general scalpcare query? Drop our team of experts and dermatologists a line at firstname.lastname@example.org