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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 Babé Laboratorios Fotoprotector Transparente Wet Skin 50Spf Banana Boat Sun Comfort Sunscreen Continuous Spray SPF 50+ Eucerin Anti-Pigment Day Cream Spf30 Eucerin Anti-Pigment Spot Corrector Formula 10.0.6 So Totally Clean Deep Pore Cleanser L'Erbolario Aquaverde Deodorant Lotion SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense Serum So...? Fresh Floral Body Mist So...? Watermelon Body Mist The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Face Mist Spf30 Pa++ The Body Shop Vanilla Body Mist Vichy Ideal Soleil Mattifying Face Fluid Dry Touch Spf 50 ACO Spotless Daily Purifying Toner Aesop Bitter Orange Astringent Toner Aesop In Two Minds Facial Toner Alpha-H Clear Skin Tonic Alpha-H Liquid Gold Alpha-H Liquid Gold Intensive Night Serum Alpha-H Liquid Gold Rose Alpha-H Liquid Laser Concentrate Serum Aptonia Spray Spf50+ Sun Protection Cream BILLE Super Active Anti - Acne Toner BODY BEAUTY Skin Whitening Lotion Balea Beauty Effect Tuchmaske Balea Med Körperbalsam Ultra Sensitive Ban Total Refresh Cooling Body Cloths Beekman 1802 Light As Air Goat Milk Facial Mist Benefit Browvo! Conditioning Eyebrow Primer Bioderma White Objective Sérum Biologique Recherche Serum Complexe Iribiol Bobbi Brown Remedies Skin Brightener No. 42 Serum Boots Botanics Rosewater Toning Spritz Boots Skin Clear 2 Hour Rapid Action Spot Gel Burt's Bees Rosewater Toner Caudalie Clear Skin Purifying Toner Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment Gel Clean & Clear Essentials Oil Control Toner Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2 Cosmedix Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum Cosmedix Purity Balance Exfoliating Prep Toner Cosmedix Simply Brilliant 24/7 Brightening Serum DRMTLGY Retinol Pads 0.25% DRMTLGY Retinol Pads 0.50% Doctor Babor Pore Refiner Era Organics Nourishing And Hydrating Toner Esfolio Pure Skin Pearl Essence Mask Estee Lauder Nutritious Micro-Algae Pore Minimizing Shake Tonic Eucerin Anti-Pigment Dual Serum Eucerin Aquaporin Active Refreshing Gel-Lotion Light