Alcohol isn’t as popular as it used to be in the beauty and skincare world. Probably because of the severe effects that it used to give people before. However, when used correctly, there can be important benefits of alcohol in skin care. So next time you see alcohol listed along with other ingredients in a skincare product, don’t be quick to decide not to buy it.

What are the Types of Beneficial Alcohol?

Now, alcohol is a broader term representing different ingredients. However, like most things, there are good and bad types of alcohol. The alcohols that can benefit the skin include;

Cetyl and Cetearyl Alcohol

Since it is a fatty acid, cetyl alcohol easily binds itself to water. As such, it helps prevent chafing and dryness, which is why it’s used in lotions and creams.

Cetearyl alcohol, on the other hand, combines cetyl and stearyl alcohol. As such, it moisturizes the skin and offers the same stabilizing benefits you’d get from other fatty alcohols.


But did you know that it’s a type of alcohol? Well, this is a common ingredient in facial oils and moisturizers. Statistics say that it’s among the most highly used skincare ingredient.

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol that can draw and retain moisture, make formulas thick, and denatured alcohol. Using glycerin on damaged skin can help repair and strengthen the skin barrier. Plus, as it can be produced synthetically, you can get it in a cruelty-free form.


Once retinyl palmitate gets into contact with the skin, it converts into retinol. Retinol is chemically classified as alcohol. This ingredient is widely recognized for its ability to smoothen fine lines while speeding up cellular turnover. Additionally, it’s also used in acne-prone skin to unclog pores and remove acne scars.

What Alcohols Shouldn’t Be Used on Skin?

It’s not unusual to come across creams with methanol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and alcohol denat. These types are used to help other ingredients penetrate quickly to the skin and as preservatives. However, they can do more harm than good. Such types cannot only cause irritations but can also lead to dryness and breakouts. It’s why we don’t recommend them in skincare.

Using these alcohols, especially in high concentrations, damages your skin’s protective barrier. As such, it interferes with the skin’s ability to lock moisture in. Additionally, they promote oil production, which can cause breakouts in the skin that overproduces it.

Essential Benefits of Alcohol in Skincare

It Doesn’t Burn the Skin

Many people are reluctant to use alcohol on their skin as we’ve been made to think that it stings or burns the skin. However, this is far from the truth. There are various types of alcohol and not just the one we drink or rubbing alcohol.

Alcohol is simply an umbrella term that includes everything from wine to rubbing alcohol to safe alcohol on the skin and beyond these. While all these types share a hydroxyl group, their structures and molecular weights are different. And these two factors are what determine the effect alcohol will have on your skin and other skincare ingredients.

It Helps Products Penetrate and Absorb Easily

Alcohol is used in many cosmetic products as solvents or emulsifiers, depending on their molecular weight. Those with low molecular weight, such as ethanol, also called denatured alcohol or SD alcohol and isopropyl, are used as solvents to help ingredients dissolve in water quickly.

They mostly come in liquid form and evaporate very quickly. As such, manufacturers also use them to achieve a specific product texture and make the product light and dry when applied to the skin. These types will feel nice, especially on oily skin,

Additionally, they help active ingredients like vitamin C to penetrate quickly to the skin.

Moisturizes the Skin

Fatty alcohols and those with a higher molecular weight are used as emollients. They help prevent oil and water from separating. As a result, they make the skin smooth and soft. Such types are extracted from fatty acids in vegetable oils or plants. They are usually thick and remain solid at room temperature.

However, we should mention that unlike alcohols with low molecular weight, these fatty alcohols make a product thick and luxurious. As such, they act as perfect moisturizers protecting the skin and enhancing its lip barrier. These types include Cetearyl, cetyl, stearyl, and biphenyl.

Should I Worry about Irritation from Alcohol?

Well, using alcohol on your skin is mostly safe. However, be wary of how much alcohol you are using. Of course, too much of it can have some side effects, but most of them are mild. For instance, while solvent-type alcohols evaporate quickly and help other ingredients dissolve in water, using too much of them can draw moisture from your skin. Also, they only quicken the penetration of active ingredients but not potential irritants like essential oils and heavy fragrances.

Note that they break down grease, meaning that they can also break down the lipids in your skin’s outer barrier. Plus, while they can reduce oil on your skin, this can cause problems. When this happens, your skin becomes more sensitive, and you’re likely to get irritated. You should, therefore, avoid high concentrations of solvent-type alcohols as they can dry or irritate your skin.

Fatty alcohols, on the other hand, are also not perfect. Most are extracted from vegetable sources, which means, like a nut, seed, and plant oils, they can also clog pores and irritate the skin.

Bear in mind that plant-derived products are also harmful. We often think that because a product is labeled as natural, organic, or plant-derived, it’s automatically 100% safe. However, you can be allergic to any of these alcohols, and also coconut, palm, and other plant oils tend to clog pores. As such, they can lead to breakouts.

If you are experiencing irritation dryness, and sensitivity, it could be that you are using too much solvent-type alcohol. On the other hand, if your skin is breaking out or your pores are clogged, it may be wise to check the concentration of fatty alcohols that you are using. If you suspect that the alcohol product could be causing the issue, it may be wise to speak to your dermatologist for advice and recommendation.

What Is the Right Type of Alcohol for My Skin?

All alcohol products are not the same. And the type included in a product will influence its texture, feel, and ultimately its interaction with the skin. Bear in mind that skincare products are complicated than just the ingredients they have. That means that the elements alone won’t tell you everything about the product.

So, everything narrows down to the type of alcohol you use, how much is included in a product, how to use it, and whether it suits your skin type. Let’s look at some rules to observe on different skin types.

Oily Skin

Those with oily skin should use alcohol products with low molecular weight to help remove excess oil. In that case, pick a product with ethyl alcohol.

Dry Skin

The best products will be those that contain high molecular weight alcohols as they help moisturize the skin. Consider alcohols like stearyl or cetyl.

Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, particularly eczema, please be careful with alcohol skin products. Note that even alcohols with high molecular weight may irritate this skin type. So, it’s best to stick with Aquaphor or Vaseline.

But we should mention that you may still experience some issues even after following these guidelines. So, you may want to check on the concentration level of alcohol in the products you are using. We advise you to start in small amounts then increase the concentration as you observe how your skin reacts. However, note that most times, it usually is trial and error.

Types of Alcohols in Skincare

Although we’ve already said this, it doesn’t hurt to repeat; the term “alcohol” is a general word representing different types of ingredients. As such, beauty experts have a problem categorizing “good” and “bad” alcohol in skincare. However, most skincare products contain these types of alcohol on their ingredient list.

Simple Alcohols

Most people take advantage of their antibacterial properties. However, they can also can as solvents to help other ingredients in the formula dissolve in water. These include ethanol, propanol, denatured alcohol, and methanol. But, these alcohols shouldn’t be applied alone or in large concentrations as they can dry out the skin. The best way to use them is if they are combined with other ingredients in the correct ratios.

Fatty Alcohols

Fatty acids include Cetearyl, cetyl, and isostearyl. As they are emollients and occlusive, they can help hydrate the skin, making perfect topical products choices. 

Aromatic Alcohols

Fragrances used in skincare utilize aromatic alcohols like benzyl alcohol. However, bear in mind that such alcohols can irritate skin or cause dryness, especially for sensitive skin. It’s always best to choose fragrance-free products.

What to Look for in an Ingredient List

Skincare products contain ingredients with different scientific formulations. As such, it’s hard to isolate one component in a product as either good or bad.

However, you can understand more about an ingredient by evaluating its concentration. Most brands list their ingredients from the one with the highest concentration to the least concentrated. Therefore, you can determine the concentration of a particular ingredient by checking its position on the list.

Also, note that the reaction an ingredient gives depends on the makeup of the whole product. Therefore, you should understand the elements that complement a formula and those which cause adverse reactions.

For instance, vitamin C has a high number of antioxidants. Thus, including it in a formula offers various benefits to the skin. And to make it even more effective, manufacturers combine it with vitamin E. But, air, heat, and light can break vitamin C structure, making it less effective or not effective at all. Thus, it’s essential that this vitamin is packed and stored correctly to ensure that it remains effective.

The same case applies to different types of alcohol. The bottom line is that we cannot rule out that alcohol in a product will dry or irritate the skin.

Is Alcohol Bad for Skin?

There’s a reason alcohol isn’t one of the banned skincare ingredients. One is that some alcohol types can help other ingredients penetrate and work properly on the skin. However, remember that not all types of alcohol are created equally. As such, it’s possible that using the wrong product can cause an adverse reaction.

It’s why you should be an intelligent and informed consumer. Don’t use any product without determining the level of alcohol concentration. Opt for a small percentage, preferably less than 1%.

Also, be on the lookout for “bad” alcohols like methanol since they may contain toxic impurities that can be problematic to your skin. Such alcohols can damage the skin barrier and rob it of its natural oils. This can lead to redness, irritation, breakouts, and visible aging.

Again, you may want to avoid isopropyl alcohol that’s primarily found in hand sanitizers. That’s because it may irritate the skin. Please avoid simple alcohols on your face like ethanol, denatured alcohol, etc., as they tend to dry the skin. Instead, you can use fatty alcohols like Cetearyl to improve the texture and complexion of your skin while moisturizing it.

Products to Focus on

Ageless Clay SC- Mega Moisturizer 2oz with Apple Stem Cells  

Aging is a natural process that we can’t avoid. However, that doesn’t mean that we’ve completely lost our youth. With this potent anti-aging formula, you can rejuvenate and regain the beautiful, youthful skin that you once had. It includes a blend of powerful minerals, fruit stem cells, peptides, and plant extracts that work together to offer excellent results.

ageless peptide collagen adama

By enhancing circulation and stimulating tissue and cell regeneration, this product restores and repairs your skin. The clay minerals and phytochemicals used help neutralize toxins and bacteria, leaving your skin healthy. Also, the moisturizer penetrates deep into your skin to heal and protect it. It can also improve your overall complexation so that you look as gorgeous as you were.

The main ingredient is the Malus Domestic Fruit cell Culture Extract, derived from apple tree’s skin cells. This extract reduces wrinkle length and depth, which decreases aging. The apple stem cells help repair, stimulate and replenish dying cells.

Hydrating Cream - Adama minerals Zion health

Hydrating Cream Moisturizing Day Cream- Hyaluronic Acid & PCA

Moisturizing your skin is not debatable. This day cream ensures that your skin remains hydrated throughout without weighing you down. Ingredients used include hyaluronic acid, clay minerals, and plant extracts that keep you moisturized all day. 

The cream penetrates deeply through the skin to neutralize toxins and repair them. With regular use, you’ll end up with soft, smooth, younger-looking skin.

Moisture Intense Lotion with Argan Oil- White Rose 8oz

 The featured ingredient, argan oil, contains vitamin A, E, and antioxidants. The formula combines argan oil with ionic minerals and vitamin E to help hydrate your skin. Also, it includes chamomile extracts that contain vitamin A and B and tea that protects the skin from UV damages. Also included are dead sea minerals to help with moisture retention. As such, not only will it hydrate your skin, but it will also repair and protect it.

white rose body lotion

Final Thoughts

Alcohol can be safely used on the skin as it offers various benefits. However, the key is to avoid drying alcohol, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin or rosacea. Also, make sure that you check the ingredients in the product you are buying before adding it to your skincare routine. If you aren’t sure about a particular element, learn about it on the Environmental Working Group website.

Have Better Skin by Being Educated on Ingredients Related to Your Health and Beauty Products.

Having beautiful skin begins with knowing what you put on it, better yet, what ingredients are in your skincare and beauty products.  When we think of the word of alcohol in skincare, it seems like an oxymoron.  Those two things should not be in the same sentence.  However, it is also better to educate yourself on something when you are not 100% sure of the outcome, especially regarding your health and wellness. 

Alcohol can have some side effects that damage the skin; however, the type of alcohol used causes the damage. Until reading this, did you know that there is good and bad alcohol in skincare and that some alcohols can be good for your skin?  At Zion Health, we keep our customers educated on topics related to health, beauty, and wellness.  Also, know that we care about what does in and on your skin; that’s why all Zion Health and beauty products are vegan, organic, contain no parabens, and are cruelty-free. Our goal is to give you the best skin of your life while also giving you peace of mind, knowing that what goes on your face is truly clean and safe.

Stay Up to Date with The Latest in News Your Body and Skin Can Use

Check out some of our other blog posts for helpful information regarding skin health, and the maintenance of a healthier lifestyle. We have talked about in the past how important is it to have a proper morning and nighttime skincare routine, to main your skin’s health and vitality.

So, the answer to the big existential question about alcohol in skincare is why it may seem complicated; it doesn’t need to be. As anything goes, when it comes to your skincare, make sure you stay informed about your ingredients and labels. However, before you do that, it is essential that you know your skincare type. If you don’t, knowing what ingredients can be good or bad for your skin needs is useless. Check out the blog, “How to Determine Your Skin Type,” that goes