There are so many ingredients used in the cosmetics industry that it seems almost impossible to keep track of them. From animal derivatives to microplastics, consumers are rightfully concerned about what we are putting on our skin.

One of the most commonly used ingredients is alcohol, though like the drinks it is found in, it comes in many forms. In chemistry, any substance that contains an oxygen/hydrogen couplet at the end of its molecule change is defined as an alcohol. There are thousands of compounds of alcohol found in nature. To spot an alcohol, look for ‘ol’ at the end of its name: tocopherol (vitamin e), calciferol (vitamin d) and cholesterol.

There are safe forms of alcohol, which help with the texture and stability of products. These are known as fatty alcohols, which are emulsifiers that allow us to safely mix together oils and water. This lends a silky texture to the product, while also helping it stay stable. These also soothe and protect the skin against environmental irritants. We love vitamin E, which is one of the most powerful anti-aging substances we use.

However, cheaper cosmetics will use the most processed form of alcohol to stabilise products. Avoid anything that has ethanol or ethyl alcohol, as it will dry out the skin while also delivering unwanted chemicals below the dermis and into the body, where they will cause irritation. This is especially common with antibacterial, self-drying hand soaps.