True or False? Avoid Using Alcohol in Skin Care Products


Updated 10/1/17. As consumers, you put great effort into educating yourself on proper skin care, which means looking at ingredients before purchasing skin products to make sure there are no harsh or harmful ingredients being used.

If you look at the ingredient list and you see the word, “alcohol,” most people would assume that the product is drying to the skin. But the truth is that all alcohols affect the skin differently, and many are not harmful. So the answer is FALSE. Do not avoid using all skin care products that contain alcohol.

Did you know that Vitamins A and E are actually alcohols even though they don’t mention the word alcohol in their name? Alcohols can be humectants, solvents, emulsifiers, surfactants, and antioxidants.

Beneficial alcohols commonly used in skin care products include:

Retinol (Vitamin A molecule to discourage wrinkles) Read: Are you Using Retinol-Based Products?

Tocopherol (Vitamin E, a free radical fighting antioxidant)

Cetyl Alcohol (product thickener)

Oleyl Alcohol (emollient)

Arachidyl Alcohol (emollient)

Stearyl Alcohol (emollient)

Propylene Glycol (a humectant that binds moisture into the skin)

“Bad,” or drying, alcohols commonly used in skin care products include:

*SD Alcohol 40 (evaporative, solvent alcohol)

Denatured Alcohol


Isopropyl Alcohol

These are extremely drying to the skin and should be avoided.

*Note: In blemish products, solvent alcohols can be useful for drying out breakouts.

Bottom line: You should not avoid ALL alcohols in skin care products because not all alcohols are the same.

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

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Disclaimer: Content found on, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.