polyvinyl alcohol in skincare

Ever wondered how peel-off masks work?

It’s all in Polyvinyl Alcohol. It’s the secret juice that makes them magically peel off your skin… and irritate it real bad.

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

What Is Polyvinyl Alcohol?

Polyvinyl Alcohol is a water-soluble synthetic polymer of Vinyl Alcohol . It looks like a white, odourless, and tasteless powder.

What Does Polyvinyl Alcohol Do In Skincare Products?

Polyvinyl Alcohol has three jobs in skincare:

  • Binder: It holds together the ingredients of a compressed tablet or cake.
  • Film-former: It reacts with the air to form a hard, plastic layer on your skin that can be peeled off your face. Literally. This is how peel-off masks work.
  • Thickener: It increases the thickness of the oil portion of skincare and personal care products.

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Does Polyvinyl Alcohol Have Any Side Effects?

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel claims Polyvinyl Alcohol is safe and non-irritating. That’s true – in small concentrations.

Peel-off masks are a different story. Here, Polyvinyl Alcohol is used in much higher concentrations (as high as 90%!). That, coupled with the mechanical removal of the mask (which is traumatic in itself), makes them irritating.

That’s why I DON’T recommend peel-off masks. I tried a charcoal mask once and never again. Taking it off hurt so much. Ouch!

But if you’d like to use one, go for a peel-off mask with hydrating and skin-repairing ingredients, like Hyaluronic Acid and ceramides, that can offset its side effects.

The Bottom Line

Polyvinyl Alcohol is safe in small doses. But stay away from peel-off masks. In the high concentrations used here, it can be drying, irritating, and overall bad for skin.

What are your thoughts on Polyvinyl Alcohol in skincare? Let me know in the comments below.