Alcohol in Skin Care: Is It OK?

Alcohol can help your skin absorb the product faster, but in some cases, the ingredient may cause redness and irritation.

There might be something hidden in your moisturizer that you didn't even think about: alcohol. Alcohol comes in many forms—some can dry out the skin and make it more susceptible to irritation, and some can actually help moisturize the skin.

However, there has been controversy recently about how much alcohol you should be careful about when it comes to skin care. Should you avoid it entirely? Is a certain amount okay?

We spoke with board-certified dermatologists to help you make the best decision for the health of your complexion.The use of alcohol in skin care products

According to, alcohol is found in a variety of skin care products, including makeup, lotions, perfumes, shaving products, oral care, and skin and hair care products.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alcohol is “a large and diverse family of chemicals with different names and different effects on the skin.”

"There are many reasons to add alcohol," says Lauren Fine, MD, a dermatologist who is board-certified in cosmetic surgery and dermatology in Chicago.

"Alcohol makes the product feel more elegant and lightweight and can also improve the overall feel of the product by making it absorb faster."

Additionally, alcohol is a possible preservative, although it is not the primary preservative as there are other ingredients that can play this role.

The name of alcohol in the ingredient list of skin care products. Here are some examples of alcohol found on skin care product ingredient labels: According to the FDA, ethanol is also known as ethanol or grain alcohol. Ethanol is denatured (see below), making it useful in cosmetics.

Alcohol Denat According to, to avoid paying taxes on alcohol in cosmetics, companies use denatured alcohol, an ingredient that makes the taste so bitter that you'll never want to drink it. You can find denatured alcohol in cosmetics, lotions, perfumes, skin and hair care products.

It is known by several other names, including methanol and SD alcohols (such as 3-A, 30, 39-B, 39-C, 40-B, and 40-C). Isopropyl Alcohol You may know it by its more familiar name: rubbing alcohol. It can be found in a range of products including nail, hair and skin care.

According to, it has a variety of functions, including acting as an astringent, antifoaming agent, and solvent. Look for methanol in your bath products, says It is considered denatured alcohol.

Benzyl alcohol An alcohol found naturally in fruits and tea. According to, you can find it in soaps, makeup, cleansers, and hair care products.

Cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, or lanolin alcohol According to the FDA, these fatty alcohols are very different from the traditional alcohols used in skin care.

According to these ingredients are found in conditioners, foundations, eye makeup, skin moisturizers and cleansers. These help moisturize the skin; when used in formulas, they also prevent oils and liquids from separating. Debate: Is alcohol good or bad for skin care products?

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There are pros and cons to using alcohol in skin care. Gretchen Frieling, MD, a dermatopathologist in Wellesley, Mass., says alcohol can penetrate built-up oil and dissolve dirt and oil on your face. But Dr. Freeling says you need to consider your skin type and your goals.

For example, if you have very oily skin, an alcohol-based toner can help reduce the production of pore-clogging sebum. But if you have dry, sensitive skin, eczema, or allergies, the same alcohol-based toner can dry out your skin, she says.

Research shows that some people are concerned that because alcohol enhances the penetration of other ingredients, the skin may be more likely to absorb potentially toxic or harmful contaminants in products.

Despite the controversy, as long as you buy products that contain small amounts of alcohol, there's generally no reason to worry about the presence of alcohol (more on that later). "A lot of skin care products contain alcohol, and most people use it without any problems," says Dr. beautiful. For normal skin types, alcohol is unlikely to cause skin problems.

However, if your skin is sensitive for any reason, read the ingredient label. "If your skin barrier is broken down due to irritation or rash, alcohol may irritate you. It may sting [when applied], although this can happen with almost any product if the skin is damaged," she says.

Check where alcohol is in the ingredient list Just like food labels, you can find out how much alcohol is in a product by checking where it appears in the ingredients list. "At smaller or reasonable concentrations, products can still benefit from the good effects of alcohol to optimize their product while reducing the negative effects," Freeling said. If alcohol is one of the main in

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