Why is Alcohol in my skin care product? My skin type should avoid alcohol in products.

Woman is confused because there is alcohol in her alcohol free skin care products

Alcohol free skincare is not always alcohol free. What??!!

Why did my dermatologist tell me to avoid alcohol in skin care products, but I see cetearyl alcohol on the label of the skin care product that the same dermatologist recommended?

Why is it that products claim to be alcohol-free, but they still say alcohol on the label?

It is a chemistry nomenclature issue that causes confusion.


Why Was I Told To Avoid Alcohol In Cosmetics?

Alcohol can dry and irritate skin.  However, fatty alcohols do the opposite.  They smooth skin and help it hold onto water because they have occlusive properties.


If you have dry skin, fatty alcohols will likely be in moisturizers and creams to treat dry skin, sensitive skin and other skin conditions.  Do not be afraid to use them. You will also find fatty alcohols  in eczema creams, psoriasis creams and creams to treat rosacea because they have natural hydrating and skin smoothing emollient properties.



Alcohol Is Not The Same Thing As A Fatty Alcohol


Fatty alcohols are made from fatty acids. They come from fatty acids derived from animals or plants such as oils palm and coconuts. Fatty alcohols do not need to be avoided in the same way that simple alcohols do.


To find a list of fatty acid alcohols in skincare, click here.



Do Fatty Alcohols Dry The Skin?


Fatty alcohols are not drying to the skin and they are safe in Dry Baumann Skin Types. Fatty alcohols do not injure the skin barrier the way that simple alcohols do.


Do Fatty Alcohols Cause Acne Breakouts, Comedones, And Pimples?

Some fatty alcohols are comedogenic meaning they can cause whiteheads, blackheads, and milia.


Cetearyl alcohol and Ceteareth -20 are not comedogenic on their own.  However, when they are formulated together in the same skin care product that can be comedogenic. This is why there is confusion about whether or not they are comedogenic.

Other comedogenic fatty alcohols include Hexadecyl Alcohol, Isocetyl alcohol, Lanolin alcohol, Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol, Oleyl Alcohol

Do Fatty Alcohols Sting The Skin?

No, fatty alcohols are soothing on the skin and can be used even if you have These types of sensitive skin: Rosacea type, Stinging Type.  If you have allergic sensitive skin, see below.


Can I Be Allergic To Fatty Alcohols?


It is possible to be allergic to fatty alcohols, but it is not common.[1]


  The most common ingredients that are allergens in skin care products are found here.:


Alcohols In Skin Care- Good or Bad?


There are many kinds of alcohols in skin care.  To learn more about if they are safe, the different types and why they are put in products in the first place-  click here.


 Do you have questions about skin care products?  Come visit our @SkinTypeSolutions You Tube channel where we discuss various issues.  You can even come on the show!

Our dermatologists can help you find the best skin care products that are safe for your skin type.


The first step is to take the skin type quiz and find out your Baumann Skin Type.


[1] HANNUKSELA, M. (1988). Skin contact allergy to emulsifiers. International journal of cosmetic science10(1), 9-14.

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