Q&A

Why do hand lotions contain alcohol?

Q.

Why do hand lotions contain alcohol? Alcohol dries the skin if used too often.

A.

There are many different substances chemically classed as “alcohols” and only a few of them are volatile enough to dry your skin. Hand lotions normally contain non-volatile waxy alcohols, with names like cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, and so on. These waxy alcohols won’t dry your skin; in fact, they’ll condition it. If volatile alcohols are used in lotions at all, it’s only at very small percentages, either as part of the fragrance blend or as trace processing leftovers in nutrient or botanical extracts. So there’s no need to worry if you see “alcohol” on a lotion label. — Paul Bryson is director of research and development at OPI.

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