Quick Facts

  • It's a super common and super debated skincare ingredient
  • It has several benefits: great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial
  • It can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list
  • Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion (read more in geeky details tab)

Geeky Details

If you want to start a debate between skincare experts, mentioning alcohol will probably be a good way to do that (Btw, denat means denaturated and it's normal alcohol with some additives that make it poisonous and bad tasting so that people do not drink it.). It's a controversial ingredient that has definitely many immediate skincare benefits and some potential longer-term drawbacks. 

So let's see first the benefits, why it's so often used. First, it is a great solvent. There are some ingredients that do not dissolve in water or oil and alcohol is often the way to go. Second, it's great at creating cosmetically elegant, fast absorbing, thin formulas. For example creating a nice, non-oily sunscreen is still a big challenge to the cosmetic industry (because sunscreen ingredients are yucky and oily) and alcohol can help with this problem. Third, alcohol is a great astringent, leaves a refreshing feeling on the skin so it's very popular as a toner ingredient. And last but not least it's also antimicrobial, helps to disinfect the skin so it's also common in after-shaves or products intended for acne-prone skin.

So now let's see what's not so good about it: First, it dries the skin. As an immediate effect for oily skin types that might sound like a benefit, but in the longer term alcohol often dries out the skin so much that the skin compensates with extra oil production. Famous dermatologist, Dr. Leslie Baumann in her Skin Type Solution book suggests avoiding alcohol if it's in the first 7 positions on the ingredient list.

Skin care expert, Paula Begoun thinks that alcohol not only dries the skin but regular exposure to it damages the skin barrier and causes inflammation. Not everyone agrees with this. Nicki Zevola from Futurederm thinks that alcohol evaporates quickly from the skin, can act as a penetration enhancer for key ingredients and is safe to use. 

So the bottom line is that alcohol (and to further complicate we are talking only about simple, or small molecular weight alcohols here)  is debated. What seems to be a fact is that it's drying but it also has several benefits. Based on that it's up to you to decide if it's something to avoid or not. 

Products with Alcohol Denat.

Aesop Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash So...? Fresh Floral Body Mist So...? Watermelon Body Mist Vichy Ideal Soleil Mattifying Face Fluid Dry Touch Spf 50 Alpha-H Liquid Gold Alpha-H Liquid Gold Intensive Night Serum Alpha-H Liquid Gold Rose Alpha-H Liquid Laser Concentrate Serum Balea Beauty Effect Tuchmaske Balea Med Körperbalsam Ultra Sensitive Ban Total Refresh Cooling Body Cloths Benefit Browvo! Conditioning Eyebrow Primer Biologique Recherche Serum Complexe Iribiol Boots Botanics Rosewater Toning Spritz Burt's Bees Rosewater Toner Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment Gel Doctor Babor Pore Refiner Esfolio Pure Skin Pearl Essence Mask Eucerin Aquaporin Active Refreshing Gel-Lotion Light Garnier Anti-Dark Spot Renovator Night It's Skin Power 10 Formula Syn®-Ake It's Skin Power 10 Formula Vb Effector Kiehl’s Cactus Flower & Tibetan Ginseng Hydrating Mist La Roche-Posay Effaclar Toner La Roche-Posay Mela-D Pigment Control Glycolic Acid Serum Lancôme Tonique Radiance Merumaya Concentrated Spot Treatment Milani Make It Last Setting Spray Missha All-Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk (Spf 50+ Pa+++) Neogen H2 Dermadeca Serum Spray Revolution Gentle Quinoa Night Peeling Serum (Quinoa Night Peel) Rodial Glamoxy Snake Mask Sante Naturkosmetik Soothing Night Cream Shangpree Bitgoa Hue Essence Toner Skinfood Peach Sake Toner Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner The Body Shop Drops Of Youth Liquid Peel The Body Shop Skin Defence The Body Shop Tea Tree Anti-Imperfection Daily Solution The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Mattifying Toner The Body Shop Tea Tree Targeted Gel The Face Shop Yehwadam White Ginseng Collagen Pearl Capsule Cream The Saem Eco Earth Power Aqua Sun Gel Spf50+ Pa++++ Urban Decay B6 Vitamin-Infused Complexion Prep Spray Urban Decay De-Slick Oil Control Makeup Setting Spray Vichy Laboratories Double Glow Peel Mask Zelens Pha+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads A'pieu Nonco Tea Tree Stick African Botanics Baobab Clay Oxygenating Cleanser