Cetaphil Liquid Cleansers with Alcohol and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Written by on February 25, 2008 with 0 Comments

From: Linda Sy MD
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 15:34:50

I received several private e-mails asking me to clarify this issue of cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol for rosaceans. I believe I have addressed this issue more than once before. However, perhaps due to commitment bias, I believe my previous explanation/clarification has been disregarded. Once more, I will attempt to explain my views more clearly on this topic without sounding too “stuffy”.

Cetyl alcohol & stearyl alcohol both belong to the family of “fatty alcohols”.

They are used in products as skin conditioning agents, emollient, viscosity increasing agent (thickener), emulsifying agents, stabilizer, surfactant.

If you feel the raw material for both (& other fatty alcohols) in your hands, you’ll find them to be thick and greasy. You’ll never call it an alcohol.

Similarly, if you feel the raw material of lanolin (an excellent emollient people are familiar with), you’ll never guess that an alternative name for lanolin is “wool alcohol” , as it is a refined derivative from sebaceous secretions of sheeps.

Using this simile, my point is this: just because an ingredient has the word alcohol attached to it, does not mean it is the type of alcohol such as isopropyl alcohol or SD alcohol that a lay person is familiar with. (I have my controversial and contrarian views on the use of SD alcohol on rosaceans but that is another entirely different long discussion.)

So, why do some rosaceans react to liquid cleansers containing cetyl alcohol etc while others don’t? My guess is the ff.

  1. The culprit is probaly not cetyl alcohol but may be the percentage amount of sodium lauryl sulfate in the formulation. SLS is the main cleansing agent in soaps & cleansers. It is very effective but, above a certain percentage, it can cause irritation in some people with delicate sensitive skin. In other words, a certain amount is optimal but beyond that percentage, can cause irritation. This explains why Sarah and many of my rosacea patients did not react to Linda Sy Cleansing Lotion.
  2. The stage of rosacea – Those with advanced rosacea and chemical intolerance, get irritated by even ordinary products. When applying products on skin that is acutely inflamed and has lost its normal protective barrier, it can feel like adding salt to open wounds. My experience has been that once inflammation is gone and skin barrier repaired/healed, these same individuals will be able to use many products again without irritation.
  3. psychological discrimination – it is very human to have irrational fear when one is concerned or obsessed with a health problem. If you keep hearing news about alcohol being absolutely anathema to rosaceans, wouldn’t you feel the burning sensation already (subconsciously) even before you apply the stuff on your face? This is the reason why double blind studies are done in academia – to remove commitment bias and subjective preconceived ideas.  Sorry for this long message. Let me finish by saluting the testers/”guinea pigs” who volunteered to my first project last year. David Pascoe gamely used some of the products I sent which contained SD alcohol and did well. So did Skylar who had very sensitive skin and many allergies. My hats off to you guys/gals and the rest of the testers! Thanks for your confidence!

Linda Sy M.D.
Linda Sy Skin Care

—– Original Message —–

From: “Sarah Lee” <splong@acan.net>
To: <rosacea-support@egroups.com>
Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2000 11:03 AM
Subject: [rosacea] Cetaphil liquid

I stopped using Cetaphil liquid after I read all the posts a couple of months ago about the “alcohols” in it and the bumpiness improved a great deal.  The Cetaphil bar seemed too drying so I tried a sample of Dr. Sy’s liquid cleanser and really like it!  But guess what?  It has the same ingredients as Cetaphil liquid but listed in different order, therefore, different amounts.  The cetaphil makes me break out and Dr. Sy’s cleanser does not – go figure!


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About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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