Alcohol in Skin Care: Is It Ever Okay?

Alcohol in Skin Care: Is It Ever Okay?

You love skincare. You get the latest product or trendy item that is 100% going to keep your skin looking radiant. Then, what do you know? You have a reaction and get all sorts of redness or itching.

Depending on your skin type, it may be a seriously important issue whether or not there is alcohol in your skincare products. The skin care industry is always changing and evolving. New ingredients are being introduced all the time, and with that comes new controversy. One of the latest topics of debate is the use of alcohol in skin care products. Is it ever okay to use alcohol in skin care?

We investigate this question in depth in this blog post, looking at both the pros and cons of using alcohol in your skin care routine. We also offer some alternative solutions for those who want to avoid alcohol altogether.

What is Alcohol?

There is no one answer to this question as it depends on personal preference and skin type. However, in general, alcohols used in skincare products can be divided into two groups: drying and non-drying.

Drying alcohols include denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol. These are typically found in astringents and toners, and can be very effective at dissolving oil and dirt on the skin (true story). However, they can also strip away the skin’s natural oils, leading to dryness, irritation, and increased sensitivity, which wouldn't be ideal for already sensitive skin.

Non-drying alcohols include fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. These are often used as emollients or thickeners in creams and lotions, and can actually help to moisturize the skin. However, they can also clog pores if used in too high of a concentration (cough cough, oily skin).

So, is it ever okay to use alcohol in skin care? It really depends on your individual skin type and what product you’re using. If you have dry or sensitive skin, it’s probably best to avoid products with super drying alcohols. And if you’re prone to breakouts, steer clear of anything with fatty alcohols. As always, it’s best to test out a new product on a small area of skin before using it all over your face. 

We always recommend giving it the 2 step test:

Step 1: try out a product on a non important area of skin like the back of your hand for a preliminary idea

step 2: This is the more important test, but after you get an idea of how your skin can react to your product, then give it a try on a small area of your face (or the desired area of application). Make sure it's not big!

The good and bad of alcohol in skincare

There are different types of alcohols used in skin care products, and their effects vary. But generally speaking, any type of alcohol can be drying and irritating to the skin.

The most common type of alcohol used in skin care products is ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol. It's a clear, colorless liquid that's derived from corn, wheat, or potatoes. Ethanol is a natural humectant, meaning it helps keep the skin hydrated by drawing moisture from the air. But it can also strip away the natural oils that protect the skin, leaving it dry and vulnerable to irritation.

Other types of alcohols used in skin care include isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) and benzyl alcohol. These are both synthetic Alcohols that are often used as preservatives or fragrance ingredients. Like ethanol, they can be drying and irritating to the skin.

When it comes to using alcohol in skin care products, there are both good and bad points to consider. On the one hand, alcohol can help to cleanse the skin and remove excess oil. It can also be used as a temporary fix for dry skin. On the other hand, however, alcohol can strip the skin of its natural oils, which can lead to irritation and dryness. It can also increase the risk of developing acne.

So, what’s the verdict? Is it ever okay to use alcohol in skin care products?

Well, that depends on your individual skin type and what kind of product you’re using. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, then a product containing alcohol may help to control oil production and reduce breakouts. However, if you have dry or sensitive skin, then you may want to avoid products with alcohol as they could further irritate your skin. 

We go a step further and recommend taking a look at the rest of the ingredients in your skincare product. If you see alcohol that is complimented by various hydrating and nourishing ingredients... It may be worth it to give it a shot. Your skin may take a liking to that combo.

How to Use Alcohol in Skin Care

When it comes to using alcohol in skin care products, it’s important to understand the difference between good and bad alcohols. Good alcohols, like cetearyl alcohol, help to keep your skin’s barrier strong and healthy by trapping moisture in the skin. This type of alcohol is often used as an emollient or thickener in lotions and creams.

Bad alcohols, on the other hand, can strip away your skin’s natural oils, leaving it dry and irritated. These include ethanol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, and benzyl alcohol. You’ll want to avoid any skincare products that contain these types of alcohols.

If you do choose to use a product that contains Alcohol Denat., make sure to follow up with a hydrating moisturizer afterwards. And always remember to apply sunscreen when going outdoors, as alcohol can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

Alternatives to Alcohol in Skin Care

If you're looking for alternatives to alcohol in your skin care products, there are plenty of options available. Here are a few to consider:

1. Witch hazel: This natural astringent is a great alternative to alcohol-based toners and astringents. It's gentle on the skin and can help to remove excess oil and dirt without stripping away the skin's natural moisture barrier.

2. Rosewater: Rosewater is another natural option that can be used in place of alcohol-based toners and astringents. It's gentle, non-drying, and helps to balance the skin's pH levels.

3. Glycerin: Glycerin is a humectant that helps the skin retain moisture. It can be found in many different kinds of skin care products, including moisturizers, cleansers, and toners.

4. Aloe vera: Aloe vera is a natural plant extract that has numerous benefits for the skin. It's anti-inflammatory, soothes sunburns, and can help to heal cuts and scrapes. It's also hydrating and can help to keep the skin moist and supple.

5. Coconut oil: Coconut oil is another natural ingredient that has multiple benefits for the skin. It's an excellent moisturizer, helps to fight wrinkles and premature aging, and can even help to treat acne prone skin

(PS: Our whole line has these powerhouse ingredients ;) )


Overall, moderate amounts of alcohol in skin care products is unlikely to cause any harm. In fact, it can actually be beneficial in some cases. However, it's always important to do your research and talk to a dermatologist before using any new product, especially if you have sensitive skin. And of course, if you ever experience any irritation or other negative reaction after using a product with alcohol, stop using it immediately and see a doctor if necessary.