Alchol encompasses a wide range of types. Alcohol is used in hair, skin and beauty products, but the properties of alcohol used in the hair & beauty industry is substantially different from ethyl alcohol which is used to create alcohol in liquor or isopropyl which is rubbing alcohol and is water soluable.
Even the types of alcohol used in hair and beauty products can be completely different and are designed to perform different functions.
Not all alcohols are drying. Fatty alcohols (like stearyl and cetyl) typically found in shampoos and conditioners help moisturize and soften tresses.
Ethanol alcholos which are most often found in hair sprays may be drying.
The two primary types of alchol used in hair care products include:
Cetearyl Alcohol and SD Alcohol
Cetearyl Alcohol helps lock moisture into the hair and the skin. It prevents moisture evaporation and it adds bounce and body to hair. Cetearyl Alchohol is naturally derived and is an important ingredient in conditioners because it helps with lubrication and detangling. It helps provide consistency. This may also be known as Ceteryl Alcohol.
SD Alcohol -40 is derived from pure ethyl alcohol that is designed as a base for styling gels and other hair fixatives. It's designed to evaporate immediately and completely when applied. It helps to provide fast drying for strong and max hold. SD Alcohol is the ingredient that hair consumers are often warned to avoid because it is considered to be excessively drying. This is a highly controversial subject with many different opinions of the value.
Should you use hair and beauty products with alcohol as ingredients? It depends on your hair type, texture and overall condition. For some, alcohol, even the most drying forms, does not cause problems. For others it can definitely be very drying. Experiment with products to determine how they impact your hair and when in doubt, ask your hairdresser.