If you were to empty the contents of your medicine cupboard and take a gander through the ingredient lists, chances are you’re going to find alcohol and soap popping up time and time again. Not only do they feature in a huge amount of cosmetic and skincare products, they will also often appear towards the beginning of ingredient lists, indicating that they’re a main ingredient. Cornerstone’s skincare range is proudly alcohol-free and soap-free (with the exception of our shave cream), but you may not be familiar with why we choose to omit these commonly-found ingredients. So, what is the deal with alcohol and soap in skincare?
Why you shouldn’t use alcohol-based products
Let’s firstly have a look at alcohol. Its prolific use throughout the cosmetics and skincare industries reflects its versatile properties. Appearing in everything from shower gels to shampoos, face wash to shaving cream, alcohol can function at various times as solvent, astringent, antiseptic, stabilizer, and much more. But just as alcohol can add a wide range of benefits, so too does the term ‘alcohol’ mask a huge amount of variety.
It’s important to note first off that not all ‘alcohols’ will necessarily be a menace to your skin. Take our exfoliating cedarwood and volcanic sand face pre-shave scrub as an example. Listed among its component ingredients, you’ll find something called ‘cetearyl alcohol’. Despite appearances, this isn’t a true alcohol, and it’s called such simply because of its molecular makeup – it’s a ‘fatty alcohol’ that simply acts as an emulsifier, so it’s safe to use.
On the other hand, simple alcohols such as methanol or alcohol denatured are an entirely different story. The main evil associated with this kind of alcohol is its drying nature. Just as drinking alcohol dehydrates your body, alcohol can have an extremely drying effect on skin, due to the rapid rate at which it evaporates once applied. Whilst it’s true that it can help dissolve oils on the skin – hence why most anti-blemish products contain it – the benefits are very much a case of short-term gain for long-term losses. Over time, alcohol can harm the skin’s protective outer layer, removing the healthy fats that lock in moisture and protect against harmful agents, ultimately dehydrating and ageing your skin. Ironically, it can motivate the skin to produce more blemish-causing oils in the long run, as your skin works in overtime.
Why you shouldn’t use soap-based products
Let’s now turn to soap. Contrary to popular wisdom, the harsh pH levels found in plain old soap can strip your skin’s of its natural protective oils and moisture. This can lead to dryness, irritation, itchiness and an unpleasant feeling of tightness. A particularly problematic ingredient to look out for is SLS’s – either Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Just like alcohol, these pernicious chemicals can be found in virtually all skincare products. One of the things they bring to the table is a lathering effect, without which many of our favourite products can feel not quite right. Indeed, some men are a little thrown at first by our low-lather shave gel, as it can be quite different to other gels you may have tried before. However, despite their prevalence, SLS’s have been found to pose a risk of severe irritation, particularly for people with sensitive or problematic skin.
What you should be using instead
For many men, tightness, irritation, dryness and even stinging sensations à la Home Alone are just part and parcel of the shaving experience, particularly when it comes to post-shave products. But these effects are often the result of using products containing alcohol or soap. When sensitive skin is introduced into the picture, their aggravating effects can be multiplied tenfold. Given that Cornerstone products were developed with sensitive skin in mind, this was a particularly important consideration when we choose our ingredients. None of them contain alcohol and only our shave cream contains soap (although it doesn’t contain SLS’s). This is why we recommend that those with the most sensitive skin opt for our shave gel, despite some men’s preference for higher-lather formula. Make sure to always follow the shave cream with our cooling and moisturising post-shave balm for ultimate results.
So, there you have it – alcohol and, to a slightly lesser degree, soap, should be big no-no’s when it comes to your skin routine. So, break the vicious cycle and start along the path to healthier skin and a more comfortable shave with Cornerstone.